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Do not eat any fungi that has not been properly identified by a qualified professional, some are DEADLY when ingested. All edible wild fungi MUST be cooked.
Jelly ear mushrooms are an edible jelly fungus that is a member of the Auriculariaceae family. This commonly found jelly mushroom is also known as cloud ear, tree ear, black fungus, and wood ear. Although there are a few other jelly mushrooms that share the same common name, always go by the botanical name for proper identification. This jelly fungi has been cultivated for food in China for centuries. When dried, it loses its rubbery quality and turns black. Interestingly, Auricularia means ear in Latin. And, for this species, auricula-judae translates to Judas’s ear (a bible reference).
Jelly ear flesh is dense to thin and mostly translucent, depending on maturity. The outer surface of the lobed fruitbody is tan-brown with a purple tinge and covered in a fine greyish velvety down. Sometimes they can take on a somewhat pinkish hue. The inner surface is smooth. The fruiting body often resembles a human ear growing out of a tree and has a very rubbery texture. Sometimes, they have a few exterior and interior wrinkles or veins, while other times, the inner portion is made up of many folds that are difficult to distinguish. When they grow close together, the folds of one often merge into another, creating a large grouping of irregularly shaped ears.
These grow low to the wood but individual lobes of grow to between 3 and 10cm (1 to 4”) across.
Jelly ears are found predominately on dead or dying elder trees, but they have also been found on dead and living trees such as ash, spindle, ash, and beech. In Australia they can be found on dead eucalyptus branches.
Jelly ear mushrooms prefer cool weather. They thrive in temperatures below 15 degrees C (60 degrees F) and will survive frosts. In northern climates, they are found in early spring and again in late autumn and even early winter. They may be found throughout the winter in southern climates as the temperatures never get low enough to discourage their growth.
Jelly ear mushrooms are best suited for cooked applications such as boiling, stir-frying, and sautéing. Before cooking, any tough patches should be removed. Used for their texture, they can be added to soups or stir-fries and readily absorb accompanying flavors. On their own, there is no real flavor. These are a significant source of vitamin B5 and copper, with smaller amounts of selenium and vitamin B2.
Wood Ear Jelly.
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