While all the plants are sleeping under the snow, there is still at least one thing you can harvest in the woods: jelly ear! This funny looking mushroom grows on dead branches but not on any tree, they like Elder and Sycamore, which make it easy to spot (if you know your trees!).
Jelly ear, Auricularia auricular-judae, has many vernacular names, for instance, “Jew’s ear” comes from an old belief that Judas hung himself from an elder tree and “Wood ear”, in Chinese, refers to the incredible resemblance of the mushroom to an ear.
This jelly-like brown fungus (3-8cm across) can be found all-year-round in many countries and has a great cultural, culinary and medicinal importance in some places. You will often find it on Chinese menus, either in a hot and sour soup or chopped in a stir fry. It has a mild taste and an interesting texture, which means, you can add it to many dishes.
If you happen to find a big bunch of them (always harvest in a sustainable way) and don’t have time to eat them all fresh, you can always dry and store them in a tightly close jar. They will only take few days to dry and shrink quite a lot, which make them easy to store. To use them, you only need to let them rehydrate in a glass of water for few minutes. One more tip: if you plan to cook a stir-fry, chop them finely as they contain some water pockets and you might get mini mycological explosions in your pan!