Wood Ear Mushrooms
Wood Ear mushrooms are small to medium in size, averaging 3-8 centimeters in diameter, and are curved and wavy with an ear-like or cup-like shape. The fruiting bodies are brown to dark brown with a slippery or gelatinous texture and can be made up of smooth, wavy edges or many folds and wrinkles with some veining. With age, the gill-less and stemless fungus darkens, and the spores range in color from yellow, cream, to white. When cooked, Wood Ear mushrooms are firm, crunchy, and toothsome with a mild, musty flavor.
Wood Ear mushrooms contain iron, protein, fiber, and vitamins B1 and B2.
Wood ear mushrooms are best suited for cooked applications such as boiling, stir-frying, and sautéing. Before cooking, the fungus should be rinsed, and any tough patches should be removed. Used for their chewy and toothsome texture, they can be added to soups, salads, or stir-fries and readily absorb accompanying flavors. Wood ear mushrooms are commonly added to Chinese hot and sour soup and to Szechwan and Hunan cuisine to soak up the spicier flavors. Outside of China, Wood Ear mushrooms are most commonly found in dried form and can easily be reconstituted. To rehydrate, the fungus should be soaked in water for at least half an hour. Wood Ear mushrooms pair well with potatoes, fermented black beans, green onions, onions, ginger, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, sesame oil, cilantro, parsley, bay leaves, allspice, snow thistle, cucumber, bamboo shoots, green peas, tofu, pork, ham, shrimp, and crab. They should be used immediately and will only keep for a couple of days when wrapped in paper towels and stored in the refrigerator.
Wood Ear mushrooms are available from early summer through early winter, while the cultivated versions are available year-round.