Wood ear mushrooms got their name from the mushroom’s resemblance to an ear growing on a tree.
Wood ear’s have other common names including: tree ear, black fungus, Jews’ ear, jelly fungus etc.
These mushrooms are available year round. This mushroom grows to a size of one to eight inches in diameter and is a native of Asia but because of an increase in population of Asian communities, wood ear’s can be found both fresh and dried throughout the United States as well as most tropical regions of the world.
A fresh wood ear mushroom is thick and smooth-skinned, though wrinkly, resembling the shape of an ear. The mushroom’s skin resembles the color of the tree bark it inhabits, turning darker, near black with age. Its texture is rubbery and gelatinous. Though it offers earthy aromas it is nearly void of flavor. Its culinary virtues are its springy chewy texture that becomes crunchy when cooked.
Wood Ear’s have long been used for their medicinal benefits. They are used in Oriental medicine to prevent heart disease. They are also believed to contain anticoagulant substances that act like blood thinners creating effects similar to that of aspirin.
Cooking hints for wood ear mushrooms.
You may have eaten Wood Ear mushrooms many times without knowing you were eating a mushroom at all, they are dark brown in color, translucent, and have a gelatinous appearance and texture. Jew’s Ear Mushrooms are usually served sliced in thin pieces; may be sautéed, braised, baked or roasted or add to soups, stews, risotto or grilled meats.
Another option is to pair tree ear mushrooms with other wild mushrooms, mild cheeses, fresh pastas or steamed vegetables so as not to overwhelm its flavor.
To store fresh mushrooms, place in paper bag or between paper towels; refrigerate. Do not store in plastic and remember to use within two to three days for optimum quality.