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(Scientific Name: Auricularia auricula
) An ear-shaped fungus that grows on the dead branches of broad-leafed trees. This mushroom grows into a round ear-like form that can range in size from 1 to 3 or 4 inches in diameter. As a fresh mushroom the outer surface has a reddish-brown color with a soft velvet-like texture. On the inside, the cloud ear is matte brown in color with a smooth rubbery almost jelly-like surface. This fungus is a relative to the wood ear mushroom and is picked to be prepared either as a fresh or a dried mushroom.
Fresh cloud ear mushrooms can only be stored refrigerated for several days before they begin to spoil. The dried variety will store in airtight containers for long periods of time, but are lacking significantly in flavor. The older the mushroom, the greater the chance that it will be tougher in texture when cooked, so it is always wise to cut the mushroom into narrow strips for cooking and serving. Cloud ears can be served in salads, soups, stews, and stir-fried dishes.
Cloud ears may also be referred to as black fungus, tree ear, wood fungus, mouse ear, or jelly mushrooms.
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