Judas Ear Fungus

Would you eat a fungus that typically only grows on dead elm or dead elder trees? Would you eat a fungus that looks very much like an ear? Would you eat a fungus that is named after Judas, the betrayer of Christ? Would you eat a fungus that also has the anti-Semitic name of Jew Ear? Would you believe me if I told you that if you eat Chinese food- you have already probably already eaten this fungus- the Judas Ear Fungus, also, sadly known as the Jew Ear Fungus.

It is known as the Judas Ear Fungus because of its ear shaped appearance. It is named after Judas of the bible because it was thought by some that he hung himself on an elder tree (although the Bible makes no mention of the kind of tree that Judas hanged himself on.) This fungi's scientific name is Auricularia auricula-judae- which literally means- "Ear of Juda".

This rubbery, fleshy fungi doesn't look very appetizing. Based on appearance alone, I think that I would rather eat a dried pig's ear, than one of these. But, looks can be deceiving. This species is used in both Chinese and Japanese dishes. It is known as "wood ear" or "tree ear" in Chinese. In Japanese, this fungus is known as "tree jellyfish". (source). In other words, this is an edible mushroom. (Note, when a field guide suggests that a wild plant or mushroom is 'edible', be sure to understand that 'edible' does not equate to 'tasty'.)

After a bit of research on this fungus, I decided to eat one. I cut the fungus off the dead tree with a knife. After brushing off the dirt and washing it, I sliced off a small piece and tasted it. It tasted like chicken. . . Sorry, no it didn't, I'm just kidding. When eaten raw, it doesn't have much of a flavor. However, some mushrooms and fungi do have the ability to absorb the flavors of the foods with which they are cooked, which is why mushrooms are often added to soups and broths.

The texture of this mushroom is similar to Calamari, a bit rubbery. I sauteed some and then ate them along with large, scooped corn chips. This made them much more palatable.

Interestingly enough, Auricularia auricula-judae is still used in Chinese medicine for blood thinning issues, bleeding hemorrhoids, and other bleeding problems. Some studies have indicated that eating this fungi can help lower LDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides.

Auricularia auricula-judae is one of the few mushrooms that doesn't freeze and can be found year round in most locations.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to eating my Ear Fungus. (That just sounds wrong.)


The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Once again, I'm better informed if not slightly nauseous thanks to your outstanding blog! (And, just where is your award, btw?) Thanks for being just as factual but far more entertaining than WikiPedia! This particular post is absolutely fascinating, Daniel. Hope to see you soon!

me ann my camera said...

This is a wonderfully informative post. Now I'm curious to see if they grow in my area?! I enjoyed your video very much.

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