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Hakeke / Wood Ear Fungus

Hakeke / Wood Ear / Pigs Ear / Jelly Fungus

For me these are one of the most abundant, easy to find and identify mushrooms in the New Zealand bush (IMO). The Auricularia suricula (or A. Polytricha – cultivated & sold in Chinese markets) (or Auricula-Judae aka Jews Ear), has many common names. They mostly refer to it’s appearance and texture: Wood Ear, Pigs Ear, or Jelly Fungus. That is, they really do look like some floppy, rubbery ears, with a jelly like appearance.

I often find these floppy eared mushrooms hanging from rotting wood, especially dead wood on old trees. Like all mushrooms they love moisture and humidity, so the rotting log in my garden is loaded with wood ears in the weather. They’re best when young and fresh, so look for soft wood ears. Once they get old or dry, they become brittle and are past their best.

These mushrooms are easy to find, however very chewy to eat, with not much flavor in particular, so you’ll need to find a suitable way to prepare them to your liking. I like to add them to a slow cooked soups, broths & stews, marinate them and keep them in the fridge, or thinly slice them and use them like ‘noodles’ in asian flavored dishes or in stir fries. Last night we finely sliced them into a miso soup with lots of ginger & garlic. The texture is a bit like seaweed, without the flavor...You can also dry/dehydrate and rehydrate when needed.

The main reason I go for these mushrooms (apart from being super abundant and available almost year round), is because of their medicinal properties. Reported to have anticoagulant, caridovascular-supporting, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, tumor-supressing, and imune enhancing properties, these are really one mushroom that you might want to get to know!

Also reported to be very nutritious, a rich source of both Vitamin B5, Copper, Protein & Fiber, with small amounts of selenium and Vitamin B2.

Wood Ears are incredibly popular in China, I get the impression they really do understand ‘food as medicine’ there, where wood ears make up 9% of the cultivated mushroom market, appearing on the menu & in meals daily.

Apparently the Wood Ear was the first fungus to be cultivated by humans, around 600 CE during the Tang dynasty of China, well before the first European discovery of mushroom cultivation of the Champignon (Agaricus bisporus) in caves near Paris, France in the 18th Century.

Ok so I’m not going to go into mushroom I.D. on the internet, and I’ve run out of text, so recipe for marinating is coming tomorrow.

Caution. These mushrooms reportedly lengthen clotting time of blood, so if you’re on blood thinning medication beware and check with your health care professional before consuming regularly.

Marinade recipe idea in next article.

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