A fungus that resembles a human ear. It is found almost exclusively on dead elder tree branches. Used in many Chinese dishes. Normally dried before use. Also know as “Jew’s Ear.”
Auricularia auricula-judae, known as the Jew’s ear, jelly ear or by a number of other common names, is a species of edible Auriculariales fungus found worldwide. The fruiting body is distinguished by its noticeably ear-like shape and brown coloration; it grows upon wood, especially elder. Its specific epithet is derived from the belief that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder tree; the common name “Judas’s ear” eventually became “Jew’s ear”, while today “jelly ear” or other names are sometimes used. The mushroom can be found throughout the year in temperate regions worldwide, where it grows upon both dead and living wood. Although it is not regarded as a choice edible mushroom in the west, it has long been popular in China, to the extent that Australia exported large volumes of the mushroom to China in the early twentieth century.
While not widely consumed in the west, A. auricula-judae was used in folk medicine as recently as the 19th century for complaints including sore throats, sore eyes and jaundice, and as an astringent. Today, the mushroom is still used for medicinal purposes in China, where soups featuring it are used as a remedy for colds; it is also used in Ghana, as a blood tonic. Modern research into possible medical applications have variously concluded that A. auricula-judae has antitumor, hypoglycemic, anticoagulant and cholesterol-lowering properties.
It is near impossible to find this fungus in commercial markets in the US or Canada. While it has medicinal values, few health food stores carry it in dehydrated or any other form.
Before use, consult your physician.