FORAGING NOTES: An unmistakable winter fungi

Wood ear (sometimes known as Jew's ear) fungus (auricula judae)

Superb example of auricularia auricula-judae – often known as the ‘jelly ear’ or, as I prefer to call it ‘wood ear’, spotted while out and about in the woods today.

If you look closely on lower branches of elder at this time of year you should find it in abundance, although it can be found at any time of year.

As ugly-looking as it is, it may not appear too appetising. However, it is perfectly edible (although a little chewy and bland) and will deliver a welcome hit of calories while out in the field during a season that gives little in the way of foraging.

For me though, the greatest quality of the wood ear is that it is unmistakable. It can’t be confused with anything else (apart from its close cousin auricularia fuscosuccinea – but that is also edible) so there’s little danger of getting yourself into trouble through mis-identification, as is the risk with most fungi.

However, do not eat it raw. It must be washed and cooked thoroughly before consuming. Alternatively, dry it out and stuff it in your pack. It’ll pad out any stew over the fire at your next camp.

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