While out in the woods I spotted these bizarre looking edible mushrooms growing on a log. My knowledge of mushroom foraging is growing slowly, and I felt confident enough to take a few to try.
(Always check that you are allowed to pick them first. Always take a small amount, never take all of them and never take the smaller ones.)
The good thing about Jelly Ears is nothing else looks the same as them. There are a few that look similar but once you know what you are looking for they are unmistakable.
However the usual caveats apply. Don’t eat anything unless you are absolutely certain of what it is. Know how to check for poisonous species and always check for these. I will not take any responsibility for any mushrooms you have eaten after reading this!
The Jelly Ear mushroom is also known as Wood Ear or Judas’ ears. They look and feel like rubbery ears.
There are many claims of medicinal properties, and they contain more iron than the same amount of liver. They are also low fat and high fibre.
There are many different ways to cook Jelly Ears. They have a rubbery crunchy texture, like a cross between seaweed and cabbage, which some people may not like. I found cooking them for long time in a soup made them softer, then they become more like shiitake mushrooms but without the strong flavour. Although personally I liked the crunch.
They don’t have a very strong taste, and so are better either cooked in a stock or served with a sauce.
For a salad, boil them whole in water for one minute, then drop them into cold water. Cooling them rapidly helps keep them crunchy and keep their shape.
There are warnings about frying Jelly Ears whole – they pop violently when heated quickly. I tried slicing them thinly then frying them in butter, but even sliced thinly they popped and bounced all over the place. I held a pan lid over the frying pan. If you stir fry them you need to heat them up slowly.
I thought they tasted lovely fried with a bit of garlic and butter. Although their flavour is subtle it is unique, so this is arguably the best way to try them (although maybe wear goggles to do it!)
If you cook them slowly they make a fantastic addition to stir fries – fry them gently with a bit of ginger, garlic, chilli and soy sauce.
Jelly Ears are lovely in soup. I made a simple Chinese-style broth which worked very well. I added dried shitake mushrooms to add more mushroom flavour.
If I find more of them I’ll try some more recipes, but please do share your recipes below.