Velvety and a little disconcerting, Jelly ear is fairly common in the UK. It is usually found in clusters, drooping from dead and dying branches, mainly of elder but sometimes on other types of hardwood, particularly beech, sycamore and ash. It likes damp, shady conditions.

One of the jelly ear’s other common names is Judas’s ear. This name alludes to the fact that the ‘ears’ appear mostly on elder – the tree species that Judas hanged himself on after betraying Jesus Christ to his executioners. The legend is that the ‘ears’ which emerge from elder wood represent his tormented soul.

This Fungus is popular in Chinese cuisine, where it is known as ‘wood ears’. It was used medicinally until at least the 1860s, and it was thought that fungi that looked like body parts could be used to treat that body part. It was therefore used to treat eye conditions (as eyes are gelatinous like the fungus) and throat problems (as jelly ear’s structure was considered similar to the throat’s). Herbalist John Gerard recommended a remedy for sore throats made by boiling jelly ear in milk.

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