Friday, 25 March 2016
The fungus that dare not speak its name
This is Auricularia auricula-judae or Jew's Ear, though I doubt that you're supposed to call it that in public these days. In fact even a decade ago, when I was doing Medieval Days for schoolchildren, I was at pains to describe it as "Judas's Ear" ... which has the advantage of being both accurate and more medievaltastic. Because it grows almost exclusively on elder trees, it was said to be an supernatural echo of Judas hanging himself from an elder after betraying Jesus.
Here it is happily growing on an elder in my wood:
It's edible despite its creepy appearance - it really does have a floppy velvety texture much like a human earlobe. In fact a very close relative under the name Cloud Ear Fungus is used in Chinese cuisine, and so bizarrely there's a European industry in supplying it dried, in bulk, to China, where it's packaged as something we'd consider exotic and shipped back to UK restaurants and supermarkets.
I'm not sure if it's beautiful, but it is a fascinating lifeform, and a humorous reminder that fungi are genetically closer to the Animal Kingdom than the Plant Kingdom ;-)