If harvesting fresh, the end where it was attached to the wood will be tough and need to be trimmed away.
Their taste is pretty mild and bland. They are used more for their colour and firm texture.
The Chinese add Cloud Ear Mushrooms a lot to their cooking as they think this mushroom has health benefits.
These are not the same as Wood Ear Mushrooms, which actually are black and have more of a taste.
The tops of dried Cloud Ear Mushrooms will be several shades of brown to dark-brown.
Soak dried ones in lukewarm water for 15 to 20 minutes. They will rehydrate to 2 to 5 times the size they were when dried, and look a bit like a big, shiny black ear. When rehydrated, cut off any woody material attached to the base, as well as any tough skin or bark, and rub lightly with your fingers to clear off any gunge. Chop and slice as needed.
For a stir fry, rehydrate and cut into strips.
If cooked too long, they will lose their firmness, which would be a drag because their texture is just about the only reason to use them in the first place. Consequently, add them to dishes at the end of cooking.
Dried ones can be also be powdered and used as a thickener for soups or a spice base.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if you use Wood Ear Mushrooms or Cloud Ear Mushrooms; they are pretty interchangeable.
Cloud Ear Mushrooms will dry well for storage.
One of the names, “Judas Ear”, comes from the legend that this fungus grows on the same type of tree as Judas Iscariot hanged himself on.