Friday, February 1, 2013

The "Jew-Ear" Mushroom

Who wouldn't be excited about discovering a patch of Jew-Ear mushrooms?

Of course at first glance you would be forgiven for thinking that the name Jew’s ear is offensive and politically incorrect – not least because the fungus looks exactly like a large brown ear. Indeed it would be tempting to add that Fagin couldn’t have done better, but I’d probably better not go there.
Auricularia auricula-judae means much the same in Latin, save for one important difference. Longer ago the fungus was known as Judas’s ear, rather than Jew’s ear....
Throughout much of Europe legend had it that Judas hung himself from an elder tree – and that the appearance of Judas’s ears on elder trees is a combination of the reappearance of his accursed spirit and a perpetual reminder of his suicide (unless you live in the far north of Scotland, that is).
It is also interesting to note in passing that during the Middle Ages it was thought that witches lived in elder trees and that was why it was considered unwise to cut them down. A present day reference to this folklore occurs in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books where the most powerful wand of them all is the Elder Wand, otherwise known as the Deathstick or the Wand of Destiny.
Alas, in clearing the elders away from the redundant hen run and burning them I may well have done myself unexpected mischief. Whatever. Anyway you read it here first.
And can you eat a Jew’s (or Judas’s) ear? Apparently you can – and a gargled infusion of Jew’s ear and hot water is supposed to cure sore throats. However, eating the fungus itself has been compared to "eating an Indian rubber with bones in" and, not fancying this description, I have left the fungi where I found them: growing on an old elder branch below the dyke where the hen pheasants take the winter sun. 

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