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Wood Ear Mushrooms – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce

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Last Updated: Feb 25, 2022

What are wood ear mushrooms?

Wood ear mushrooms are instantly recognizable, with their dark brown color and wrinkled, ear-like appearance. Their rubbery, gelatinous texture adds a layer of chewy goodness to soups and stir-fries, and though they don’t have a strong flavor, they’re a fantastic vehicle for flavor, soaking up the tastes of the ingredients around them. As a result, wood ear mushrooms appear particularly prominently in a range of regional Chinese cuisines, as well as in Japanese cuisine, and several other Asian cooking traditions. They can be bought fresh, but since they store better when dried, you’re more likely to see dried wood ear mushrooms in the grocery store, depending on where you’re shopping.

Where did wood ear mushrooms originate from?

This distinctive type of fungus has its roots in Asia and the Pacific. They’ve been used for over 1,000 years in China, where evidence of wood ear mushrooms in both cooking and medicine dates at least as far back as the Tang dynasty (618-907AD). They were also used medicinally by Native Americans, and in recent centuries also by Europeans. The biggest producers of fresh wood ear mushrooms are still in Asia, but the fungus also grows in temperate climates on other continents, including in North America.

What are the benefits of eating wood ear mushrooms?

Wood ear mushrooms add a lot of beneficial nutrients to your diet. They also contain more protein than many other types of mushrooms.

How are wood ear mushrooms grown?

Wood ear mushrooms grow in the wild and are also intentionally cultivated for the market. In the wild, the fungus grows on trees and pieces of wood, often on decaying logs and trunks. Elder trees, ash trees, and beech trees are just a few of the types of trees that can yield wood ears. Agricultural producers also grow wood ears in bags filled with a substrate such as sawdust, with added nutrients.

When are wood ear mushrooms in season?

Wood ear mushrooms can generally be found all year round, although wild varieties are specific to summer and fall. Finding fresh wood ear mushrooms can be difficult, although it’s not impossible. However, you’re far more likely to find wood ear mushrooms in dried form wherever you buy fresh vegetables.

What should I look for when buying wood ear mushrooms?

Wood ear mushrooms should be a uniform shade of brown, usually darker brown and even black. They should be dry and somewhat rubbery to touch, and their wrinkled skin should be springy. If you’re unable to find fresh wood ear mushrooms, look for dried wood ears.

If you are looking to have your groceries delivered, you can easily shop for wood ear mushrooms via Instacart. After adding a product to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose the best products. Shop for wood ear mushrooms.

How to store wood ear mushrooms

Dried wood ear mushrooms don’t need to be refrigerated, but should be kept in a cool, dark, and dry place. Dried wood ears will last for many months under these conditions. After rehydrating, dried wood ears will stay good for around three or four days in the refrigerator, where they should be kept inside a covered dish or container. Avoid freezing uncooked wood ear mushrooms.

How to tell if wood ear mushrooms are bad

The color of the mushroom should be consistently brown or black. If they are a different color, or if there are visible signs of mold, your mushrooms have gone bad and should not be consumed. Other signs that wood ear mushrooms are going bad include a strong, foul smell or slimy texture. Don’t take any chances on rotten mushrooms, because consuming them could cause sickness.

What can I substitute for wood ear mushrooms?

Since wood ear mushrooms don’t have a particularly pronounced flavor, substituting them in a recipe is primarily a question of using an ingredient that stands in for the texture of wood ear mushrooms. A few options include the following types of mushroom:

  • Cloud ear mushrooms are very similar to wood ears in terms of appearance and texture. They’re the optimal replacement, but may not be readily available, depending on your location.
  • Oyster mushrooms are also a dependable replacement for the chewy texture of wood ears. Another bonus is that they come with only a mild flavor, though they’re still stronger in the flavor department than wood ears.
  • Shiitake mushrooms can stand in for the chewy texture of wood ears, although they lack the wood ear’s thin, crinkly structure. Remember that shiitake mushrooms add a rich, earthy flavor to any dish, in comparison to the flavor-neutral character of wood ears.

Wood Ears For The Win

So many different cultures have used wood ear mushrooms to treat sickness or simply to supplement a healthy diet, so if you’ve never tried them it’s time you put that right. Shop Instacart for wood ear mushrooms in a store near you and add the gelatinous, squeaky texture of this under-appreciated fungus to your soups or salads! Explore what’s available now and order today for same-day delivery.

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