Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

wood ear (or tree ear) mushrooms, of the genus Auricula, a staple ingredient of oriental cookery. They grow on trees, usually deciduous, in tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates, including Europe, N. America, and Australia. They are cultivated on a large scale in China, and also in Japan and Taiwan, and are available in dried form wherever oriental foodstuffs are sold. After being soaked and softened, they have a markedly gelatinous texture.

The main European species, occurring also in N. America and Australia, is Auricularia auricula, which is also one of the two main species used in China (where the general name for these fungi is muer). The other is A. polytricha, present in China and Australia but not in Europe or N. America. The distinction between the two species is imperfectly represented in common names, especially those translated from the Chinese, but it is generally thought that the Chinese name ‘cloud ear’ applies more to A. auricula than to the other.