This common fungus was formally named Jew’s Ear because it was commonly believed that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder tree branch which is, as my granny used to say, the most brittle and useless tree in Ireland.
The Latin name can be translated as The Ear of Judas but somehow down through the years, it corrupted to Jew’s Ear. Nowadays, it is called Jelly Ear or Wood Ear and in certain parts of Ireland – Dead Man’s Ear. Mushrooms and fungi are confusing enough without names being lost in translation!
While Jelly Ear prefers elder, it really just likes dead wood and grows on dead beech, birch and gorse in my garden and neighbouring woods.
It is easily identified because it looks very similar to, Yes, that’s right – floppy brown EARS! It grows all year round but most noticeable in autumn probably due to the increase moisture in the atmosphere.
I use Jelly Ear, dried and ground to a powder, to thicken soups and sauces. It absorbs more than its body weight in moisture and adds a rich earthy flavour to my dishes. It needs to be well washed prior to drying and laying it out on a sunny windowsill for a few days works perfectly.
Modern scientific research is showing Jelly Ear to have anti-tumour, hypoglycaemic, anticoagulant and cholesterol-lowering properties.
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