Jelly Ear Fungus: Profile
Jelly Ear Fungus, Jelly Ear, Judas’ Ear, Jew’s Ear, Wood Ear
Auriculariaceae (Jelly fungi)
Temperate regions worldwide. Common and widespread in Britain (particularly in the South) and Ireland.
Where to find Jelly Ear Fungus
Dead Elder branches. Occasionally, you may also find them growing on Sycamore, Beech, ash or Spindle.
When to find Jelly Ear Fungus
All year round.
How to identify Jelly Ear Fungus
The fruiting body of Jelly Ear Fungus is cup-shaped, either smooth or undulated, and reddish brown in colour. It’s translucent, thin and rubbery and it’s covered in very fine hairs that give it a velvety texture.
Jelly Ear Fungus lookalikes
This one is reasonably safe for beginners because there are no similar poisonous species. It may be confused with some Peziza sp. but these don’t tend to grow on Elder trees and the cup shape faces up, as opposite to the Jelly Ear that face down.
All about Jelly Ear Fungus
The name of this rubbery little mushroom, originally known as Judas’ Ear, is a Christian reference to Judas Iscariot, who supposedly (and unlikely) hanged himself from an Elder tree. The original name was corrupted to Jew’s Ear and so became Jelly Ear eventually.
The fungus is found all year round and it’s conveniently available to the forager when nothing else is growing in winter, as it is able to withstand freezing conditions. In summer, they completely dry to easily reconstitute when soaked in water.
Medicinal properties of Jelly Ear Fungus
Jelly Ear has been used as a medicinal mushroom for centuries . Recent scientific research suggested that the mushroom could be used to lower cholesterol levels and showed anticoagulant properties, but there is still no conclusive evidence.
Culinary uses and recipes with Jelly Ear Fungus
Traditionally regarded inedible in western countries, it’s a choice mushroom much appreciated in Chinese cuisine, where the similar Cloud Ear (Auricularia polytricha) is commercially and culturally significant.
Jelly Ear is one of the most intriguing mushrooms used in the kitchen. It has no flavour on its own and absorbs pretty well any character of the ingredients it is cooked with, making them a perfect vehicle for all your favourite flavours, like you would use tofu.
It is a great addition to Chinese soups and a main ingredient to Wood Ear Mushroom salad. It absorbs flavours on spicy marinates, though the texture is crunchy and slippery, not to everyone’s taste.
Safe foraging of Jelly Ear Fungus
No hazrds known. Just clean thoroughly before consumption.
Ecological importance of Jelly Ear Fungus
This fungi helps to decompose dead (and dying) Elder trees.