Wood ear mushrooms can be used fresh, but also rehydrate beautifully after being dried. They are commonly used in hot and sour soup. Described as having a mild and “slightly musty” flavor, they also take on the flavor of the other items in your recipe. They are firm and somewhat chewy or rubbery – even a bit crunchy when cooking, especially after being dried.
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Wood ears grow directly on tree trunks, usually on dead, decaying, or sick trees. They prefer cool weather and appear in fall to early winter, but sometimes appear in early spring before temperatures rise. They are gill-less, crinkly mushrooms that grow in clusters.
Wood ear mushrooms have traditionally been used in Chinese medicine. They are high in protein, iron, and vitamin K. Dr. Axe’s website also states that they may help fight cancer cells, support heart health, provide antioxidants, block bacterial growth, and are a good source of copper, which helps with iron metabolism.