Jelly Ear

7th January 2013

One fungi species that can be found all year round, and which there seems to be loads around at the moment is Jelly Ear Fungus Auricularia auricula-judae. Also known as Wood Ear and previously as Jew’s Ear or Ear of Judas owing to the fact that Judas supposedly hung himself from an Elder Sambucus nigra (which is the main host species for this fungi). It really does resemble a large pinky-brown human ear. The number of tree species that it can be found growing on appears to be increasing with global warming and in the UK it is documented as growing on 20 species, personally I’ve seen it growing on Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanas, Wych Elm Ulmus glabra, Beech Fagus sylvatica and Ash Fraxinus excelsior as well as the usual Elder.

Jelly Ear Fungus Auricularia aricula-judae growing on Elder Sambucus nigra

Because it is so distictive and cannot really be mistaken for any other species it is often the first fungi the novice forager trys often with dissapointment, as it is not particularly tasty and despite long cooking it retains a tough rubbery texture described in one book as “like eating an India-rubber with bones in”. In the East however this texture is relished and the very closely related Auricularia polytricha is widely used in China and Vietnam. It is usually cut into thin strips and dried and then rehydrated and used in soups such as Hot & Sour soup and spring rolls.

Generally it requires a decent amount of cooking (at least 30 minutes) and if frying the fresh fungi it has a tendency to pop and spit quite violently. One way to use it is to dry it and then crumble it into soups, stews and sauces both to thicken and to add a mushroom flavour. One of the best ways of utilising them that I have tried is a recipe in the Bushcraft and Survival Skills Magazine a while back by Fergus Drennan. The dried Jelly Ears were soaked in a fruit liqueur like Sloe Gin and then dipped in chocolate……what wouldn’t taste good after that treatment?

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