First ID’d in 1744, Wood Ears tends to grow on deciduous trees and shrubs, favouring Elder. The fungus is associated with Judas Iscariot because of the belief that he hanged himself on an elder tree after his betrayal of Jesus Christ. Folklore suggests that the ears are Judas’s returned spirit, and are all that are left to remind us of his suicide. Lovely.
After a lot of internet research (as NEVER eat a mushroom you can’t 100% identify) and chats with schroom experts, I concluded they were edible so just before we left on our journey back to Brighton, I went out and picked a bag full. They are a very strange texture, not like normal mushrooms at all. They actually feel like jelly! They are very malleable and really deserve the name of Wood Ear as they look like little Ears! It was actually quite satisfying pulling them off the trunk of the fallen Elder tree.
When I got home, I decided to pickle them to use them as a dressing topper on my Ramen cook ups. I soaked them for 24 hours as they are very tough and gelatinous. I then cut off the ‘stalk’ where the Wood Ears were attached to the tree as I’d managed to bring back all sorts of moss, bugs and dirt when they’d been attached to the tree! I then threw them in a Kilner Jar, added some White Wine Vinegar and pushed the mushrooms down past the vinegar line with a DIY pusher downer lol. I then sealed and popped in the fridge. I understand you can keep them like this for up to 6 months.
So today, three weeks later I decided to have a taste. I ate half a the tiniest Wood Ear to test how they were doing … and to see if I’m going to poison myself and my guests aha. It was actually alright! It tasted like pickled jelly lol! Very bitey and I know they will work well on top of my Ramen meals too. They could still do with lots more pickling time so I popped them back in the fridge for another day.
Do you forage regularly? I’d love to hear what you pick and it’s uses.
Here’s some images from my preparation.