Similar species : Auricularia mesrnterica aka tripe fungus which is poisonous, not to be eaten, can effect health adversely or is deadly!!!!
Auricularia auricula-judae, known as the Jew’s ear, wood 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 colouration; 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” and other names are sometimes used. The fungus can be found throughout the year in temperate regions worldwide, where it grows upon both dead and living wood.
Jews ear/jelly ear should be gathered while its still soft (it turns rock hard with age) it should be cut from the tree with a sharp knife, make sure you discard all of the tough stalk!!
should be washed well and sliced finely, although the flesh is thin, it can be tough and indigestible. best in soups and stews, not easily fried. Stew for at least 45 minutes in stock or milk and serve with plenty of pepper.
It can also be dried, and is best ground to a powder and used as a flavouring.
Auricularia auricula-judae has been used as a medicinal mushroom by many herbalists. It was used as a poultice to treat inflammations of the eye, as well as a palliative for throat problems. The 16th-century herbalist John Gerard, writing in 1597, recommended A. auricula-judae for a very specific use; other fungi were used more generally. He recommends the preparation of a liquid extract by boiling the fruit bodies in milk, or else leaving them steeped in beer, which would then be sipped slowly in order to cure a sore throat. The resultant broth was probably not dissimilar to the Chinese soups that use A. polytricha. Carolus Clusius, writing in 1601, also said that the species could be gargled to cure a sore throat, and John Parkinson, writing in 1640, reported that boiling in milk or steeping in vinegar was “the onely use the are put unto that I know”.
Writing in 1694, herbalist John Pechey described A. auricula-judae by saying “It grows to the Trunk of the Elder-Tree. Being dried it will keep a good year. Boyl’d in Milk, or infus’d in Vinegarm ’tis good to gargle the Mouth or Throat in Quinsies, and other inflammations of the Mouth and Throat. And being infus’d in some proper Water, it is good in Diseases of the Eyes.” The species also saw use as an astringent due to its ability to absorb water. There are recorded medicinal usages from Scotland, where it was again used as a gargle for sore throats, and from Ireland, where, in an attempt to cure jaundice, it was boiled in milk. The medicinal use of A. auricula-judae continued until at least 1860, when it was still sold at Covent Garden; at the time, it was not considered edible in the United Kingdom.
Medicinal use in Indonesia was also recorded in the 1930s, and was more recently reported in modern-day Ghana. A report for the 2005 Commonwealth Forestry Conference examining the possible effects of deforestation in southern Ghana on medicinal and edible fungi found that A. auricula-judae was in use as a blood tonic.
Photos and words by Andy Hall
Auricularia auricula-judae has been the subject of research into possible medicinal applications. Experiments in the 1980s concluded that two glucans isolated from the species showed potent antitumour properties when used on mice artificially implanted with Sarcoma 180 tumours. This was despite the conclusion of earlier research indicating that, while aqueous extracts from several other fungal species had antitumour effects, extracts from A. auricula-judae did not. Further, research on genetically diabetic mice showed that a polysaccharide extracted from A. auricula-judae had a hypoglycemic effect; mice fed with food including the polysaccharide showed reduced plasma glucose, insulin, urinary glucose and food intake.
Another chemical extracted from the species was an acidic polysaccharide (made up of mostly mannose, glucose, glucuronic acid and xylose) which showed anticoagulant properties. The article concluded that “the polysaccharides from these mushrooms may constitute a new source of compounds with action on coagulation, platelet aggregation and, perhaps, on thrombosis”. Another study reported that the species may be effective in stopping platelet binding in vitro, with possible uses regarding hypercholesterolemia. Research has shown that A. auricula-judae can be used to lower cholesterol levels generally, and, in particular, is one of two fungi shown to reduce the level of bad cholesterol!!
Never eat any wild plant or fungi unless you are 100% sure that you have identified an edible species.
Always cross-reference the information you find on the internet with an expert, a foraging group like purselves on a course, or several reference books. Have fun, but be responsible. Identification is entirely your responsibility and it can also mean your life!
Andy Hall is Northern Wilderness’s senior assistant, blogger and writes for his own blog Andy’s Outings on facebook. Andrew also works as an instructor with Northern Wilderness and you can join Andy on a course. When booking quote A01 to receive a discount for taking the time to read this blog post.
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