The edible silver ear
The recent and most welcome rain woke up some mushrooms here at Dokmai Garden. The silver ear (Tremella fuciformis) smiled at me when I entered the orchid nursery and looked at a pile of longan wood. This jelly fungus is native to Thailand and is also grown commercially. In China it is consumed in large quantities. It is often served in soups and may not have a striking flavour to a westerner, but I have learnt from the east Asians to appreciate a food’s texture and indeed the soup would be poor without it. You can easily find it for sale in Thai markets, dried and packed in large plastic bags. One Thai name is ‘hed ho no kao’ (=’white rat’s ear mushroom’).
The name ‘fuciformis’ means ‘look like fucus’, i.e. it resembles some brown algae in shape. Recent research show that the silver ear may live freely as unicellular yeast, but when attacking certain Hypoxylon mushrooms the large jelly-like fruit bodies emerge. I have frequently encountered many Hypoxylon s. lat. at Dokmai Garden. Ecologically the silver ear is important for wood degradation, control of other wood degrading fungi and as food for various animals.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell