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Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Judas's Ear, Auriculariales Fungus

Auricularia auricula-judae, is pale brown in colour, and really does resemble a human ear in size, shape and texture, is known as the Jew's ear, wood ear, jelly ear or by a number of other common names, is a species of edible Auriculariales fungus found worldwide. The fruiting body and brown color, is distinguished by its noticeably ear-like shape. It grows upon wood, especially elder. Its specific epithet is derived from the belief that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder tree; the common name "Judas's ear" eventually became "Jew's ear", while today "jelly ear" and other names are sometimes used. The fungus can be found throughout the year in temperate regions worldwide, where it grows upon both dead and living wood.

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus

Photo credit nutmeg66

The fungus is associated with Judas Iscariot because of the belief that he hanged himself on an elder tree after his betrayal of Jesus Christ. Folklore suggests that the ears are Judas's returned spirit, and are all that are left to remind us of his suicide. The common name of the fungus was originally Judas's ear, but this was later shortened to Judas ear and, in the late 19th century, shortened again to Jew's ear.  Common names for the fungus which refer to Judas can be traced back to at least the end of the 16th century; for instance, in the 17th century, Thomas Browne wrote of the species:

In Jews' ears something is conceived extraordinary from the name, which is in propriety but fungus sambucinus, or an excrescence about the roots of elder, and concerneth not the nation of the Jews, but Judas Iscariot, upon a conceit he hanged on this tree; and is become a famous medicine in quinsies, sore throats, and strangulation's, ever since.

Auricula-judae was used in folk medicine as recently as the 19th century for complaints including sore throats, sore eyes and jaundice, and as an astringent. Although it is not widely consumed in the West, it has long been popular in China, to the extent that Australia exported large volumes to China in the early twentieth century. Today, the fungus is a popular ingredient in many Chinese dishes, such as hot and sour soup, and also used in Chinese medicine. It is also used in Ghana, as a blood tonic. Modern research into possible medical applications have variously concluded that A. auricula-judae has antitumour, hypoglycemic, anticoagulant and cholesterol-lowering properties.

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus
Photo credit Simon Merrifield

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus
Photo credit Solange B

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus
Photo credit Staatsbosbeheer

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus
Photo credit Staatsbosbeheer

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus
Photo credit Rosey

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus
Photo credit Joy

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus
Photo credit Gidzy

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus
Photo credit Solange B

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus
Photo credit honderd woorden

The Judas's ear, Auriculariales Fungus
Photo credit Szabo Jozsef(iosif)

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