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Wood Ear


The Wood Ear, Auricularia auricula, is a very common mushroom found year-round. It's easy to confuse with the Amber Jelly Roll, Exidia recisa. The Wood Ear is larger, duller, and more ear-shaped, but until you see them in the field, positive ID can be difficult. The good news is that both of these (and other similar mushrooms) are edible. They have no flavor to speak of, but they have an interesting texture. I like to eat them in soup. I put this batch in some miso soup. They have an anticoagulant property, so I wouldn't eat them before surgery! But they're a good mushroom to eat if you have high cholesterol. They have also shown anti-tumor activity and have some other health benefits. Here's an article summarizing recent research.

Wood Ears are quite different from the classic cap-and-stem mushroom. Their spores are contained in a gelatinous mass that keeps them moist when conditions dry out. I spotted these about a month ago. We had a two-week dry spell and they shriveled to almost nothing, and then yesterday we had a rain and they plumped right back up.

There is a lot to tell about these little mushrooms, so I will revisit them in a later post, but for now I'll close with a fun fact from Paul Stamet's Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms: a document from circa A.D. 600 in China claims that this was the first mushroom to be cultivated.  

(The ruler in the photos is in inches.)