A few weeks ago I posted this photo on Instagram and proclaimed that I had finally made the mushroom soup of my dreams. It’s true. This was the most amazingly delicious health tonic that I’ve made in a long time because every single ingredient is a superfood in its own right. Mushrooms are incredible for the immune system and hormone balance on their own, but using strongly brewed chaga tea as the soup stock takes your mushroom soup to the next magical health tonic level – it’s like a mushroom soup that’s riding a sleigh pulled by unicorns over a rainbow.
It’s no accident that mushrooms are often referred to as magic, usually due to the psychedelic properties of some. There are also some theories out there that thank the hallucinations brought on by eating those red and white dotted mushrooms for the legend of Santa Claus. (If you ate one of those bad boys, you’d probably see a man in red and white riding a sleigh led by flying reindeer with a red mushroom nose, too. Just saying.)
But other types of mushrooms, like chaga, reishi and lion’s mane, have been used as folk medicine for hundreds of years.
Chaga grows on birch trees, and is believed by some to contain the energy of the tree. Since trees live much longer than humans, we can use the energy of the trees to live longer, at least that’s what the ancient Chinese believed.
In Russia and Siberian folk wisdom, chaga was viewed as magic, being used for treatment of all sorts of conditions that could not be operated on. Since the fifties, chaga has been promoted by the Moscow Medical Academy of Science for clinical and domestic medicine. Russian athletes have even used chaga for an edge in performance.*
Chaga is a tonic with blood purifying, anti-aging and immune boosting properties. It’s known as an adaptogen, which is a class of herb that helps the body deal with stress. For this reason, you can see why chaga is so good for athletes and a long life.
When I was Instagramming the soup, I couldn’t find the mushroom emoji. That was because I was looking at the food emojis. But mushrooms are more than food.
- 4 pints of mixed mushrooms, best if you can get crimini and shiitake for their immune benefits, sliced
- 2 tbsp butter, ghee or olive oil
- 2-3 shallots, chopped
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 4 cups strongly brewed chaga tea
- Thick yogurt
- Fresh parsley
- Lemon zest
- Truffle salt (optional)
- Add the butter to a pot set over medium heat and allow to melt. Add mushrooms, thyme and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and cook down until the mushrooms lose some of their moisture.
- Add shallots and garlic and continue to cook until fragrant.
- Add the chaga tea and stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let the soup bubble away with the lid off.
- After 15 minutes or so, turn the heat off. Let the soup cool and blend at least half of the soup. Return to the pot and season to taste.
- When you’re ready to serve, spoon the soup into bowls. Be like Jamie Oliver and top with a spoonful of yogurt or kefir, some fresh parsley and some lemon zest. I also love this soup with a pinch of truffle salt overtop.
Here’s to magical, medicinal mushrooms. xo Andrea
*Alma R. Hutchens, Indian Herbalogy of North America. Merco, Windsor, 1973