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|Food Buzz: History of Mushrooms|
Snow mushrooms are small to medium in size, averaging 5-7 centimeters in diameter, and are thin, ruffled, and made up of branching fronds. The fruiting body ranges in color from white to tan and is gelatinous and translucent. The mushroom also produces spores on the surface of the folds in the branches. Snow mushrooms have a spicy odor that dissipates with cooking and are chewy and supple with a very mild flavor.
Snow mushrooms are commercially cultivated in China and are available year-round in both fresh and dried form.
Snow mushrooms, botanically classified as Tremella fuciformis, are a wild, edible fungus that belongs to the Tremellaceae family. Also known as the Silver Ear mushroom, Tremella mushroom, White Jelly fungus, White fungus, and White Tree fungus, Snow mushrooms grow in tropical climates on dead branches of broadleaf trees and are also cultivated in China for their medicinal properties. Found in fresh, dried, and canned form, Snow mushrooms are used to add texture to a wide variety of culinary applications.
Snow mushrooms contain vitamins B1, B2, B6, and D, folate, zinc, potassium calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper.
Snow mushrooms are best suited for cooked applications such as boiling, pan-frying, and sautéing. They are often used in salads and soups for an added, chewy texture and are also mixed with stir-fries at the end of preparations to keep them from falling apart. The gelatinous nature of the mushroom can also be used as a thickener in soups and sauces. In China, Snow mushrooms are served in rock candy syrup and are also combined with dried longans and jujubes in a dessert soup known as luk mei. Snow mushrooms pair well with green onion, cilantro, poultry, celery, carrots, dates, soy sauce, blueberries, kiwi, and vanilla ice cream. They will keep 1-2 days when wrapped in paper towels and stored in the refrigerator.
Snow mushrooms are used as a beauty product by women in China and Japan, and it is claimed that if eaten, the mushrooms will contribute to a long and unblemished life. Snow mushrooms contain an enzyme that improves moisture retention in the skin which can sometimes help with the reduction of wrinkles. Used for over 2,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine, Snow mushrooms have also been used to help reduce freckles, are made into a tonic, used to help reduce dry coughs, and ingested to help improve complexions.
Snow mushrooms are native to subtropical and tropical regions around the world including Brazil, Taiwan, China, Japan, and in other Asian countries. Cultivation of these mushrooms began around 1914 in China and new cultivation techniques began in 1968, leading to the mass production of the variety and ability to export the mushroom in dried form worldwide. Today Snow mushrooms are found fresh at local markets or in dried form in Asia, Southeast Asia, South America, Central America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and North America.