If you walk along the Archipelago Trail during the winter months, it is worth keeping an eye out for ‘Judas ear’ fungus, which primarily grows on old elder trees. It is an edible fungus, and thanks to its peculiar living conditions and distinctive appearance, it is easy to pick as well.
There is some discussion as to whether it actually tastes of anything, but it has a unique texture that is greatly appreciated in Asian cuisine. Judas ear fungus is from the same family as – and greatly resembles – the black mushrooms you will often find in bags of ‘Asian vegetable mix’ in supermarket freezers.
It is excellent for using in spring rolls, wok dishes, soups, etc. And it is easy to dry as well. If you then give it a long soak before use, it will be as good as newly picked again.
The story goes that when Judas had betrayed Jesus, he was overcome with remorse at what he had done and went into the garden to hang himself from an elder tree. However, anyone who has ever grabbed onto the branch of an elder tree knows how easily they snap. Therefore, Judas was frustrated in his attempt to end his life. The first fungus grew from the place where his ear struck the tree, and it continues to grow to this day – serving as an eternal reminder of his treachery.