Jelly Ear fungus – Edibility, Identification, Distribution

Auricularia auriculae-judae 

AKA – Jews Ear

jelly ear
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  • Edibility – 3/5 – While the feint flavour and slippery yet crunchy texture aren’t particularly esteemed in western cultures, they work well eastern cuisine – especially miso soups, stir-fry etc.
  • Identification – 5/5 – cup-shaped, becoming irregularly lobed and often ear shaped. Up to 7cm diameter, but usually smaller.
  • Distribution – 4/5
  • Season – All year, especially autumn
  • Habitat – growing on dead deciduous trees – almost always elder, but also other hardwoods.
Jelly ear

Jelly ear

This rather dubious looking little mushroom’s latin name comes from its traditional name of “jew’s ear”, which I suspect isn’t very PC nowadays. It isn’t quite so pejorative as it may sound, referencing the christian tradition that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder tree. Either he was very small, or it was a particularly substantial specimen, or, as I suspect, christianity was trying to enhance its plausability by  ’cashing in’ on pagan traditions that long predate it. I generally only pick it as a by-catch on an elderflower/berry foray.

Jelly ear naturally de- (and re-) hydrates in the wild, often looking like shrivelled, hard dark knobs in warm dry weather. It can be picked in this state and rehydrated. I pop them in my drinking water bottle an scare kids 20 minutes later with it…

Its fun to rehydrate it in interesting liquids. Try soaking the dried growths in dashi stock to ramp up the umami. Or in fruity booze (elderflower liqueur or elderberry gin complete the circle quite pleasingly), before drying a little again, then covering in chocolate to make rather interesting “turkish delight”. I believe we have foraging legend Fergus Drennan to thank for this twisted genius, though many have since copied the idea and claimed it as their own.

jelly ear, jews ear, judas ear, edibility, distribution, identification, foraging, wild food

Jelly Ear

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2 Comments

  • Tom Gulstad says:

    Hello Mark.
    Funny you should mention that the Judas’ Ear grows on dead elderwood.
    I have a few “dead” elders, that I cut down to about 1 m. just to see if the elder would miraculously recover or become substrates for the Judas’ Ear (my lang).
    This spring, I saw at least two elders shooting strongly and actually start fresh elderbushes/trees…
    And lo and behold…
    Along some of the dead branches, clumps of Judas’ Ears were clearly visible, though shrunken from a dry spell.
    I’ll be doing some harvesting soon.

    Cheers.
    Tom

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