Tremella mushrooms (scientific name Tremella fuciformis) are a species of fungus that look a little like a snowball, hence it is also known as “snow fungus”. Tremella produces white, frond-like, gelatinous basidiocarps (fruiting bodies), which makes its appearance look more akin to sea anemones than other mushrooms. In fact, its name in Japanese literally translates to “white tree jellyfish”. Another name for Tremella is the “white wood ear mushroom”. It grows in the tropics, usually on the dead branches of broadleaf trees.
Tremella mushrooms are commercially cultivated and are one of the most popular fungi in the cuisine and medicine of China. Their popularity in the west is growing quickly as people are discovering the benefits of Tremella mushrooms for beauty (it is also known as the “beauty mushroom”).
Where To Find Tremella Mushrooms
The Tremella mushroom grows in tropical and subtropical regions all around the world. It can also occur in temperate areas all around the world, from North America to Asia and Europe.
How To Identify Them
The Tremella mushroom is almost pure white in color though it appears transparent near the edges. The texture looks jello-like but is actually quite firm. The individual mushrooms are usually relatively large in size – about 3 inches (8cm) across and 1.5 inches (4cm) high.
The mushrooms should have a mild pleasantly sweet smell and taste the same way.
Sparassis spathulata is mushroom that has a similar appearance, although it is firmer than the jelly-like texture of Tremella. Fortunately, this mushroom is equally edible, so should you find it and mis-identify it, you won’t face any negative repercussions.
How To Grow Tremella Mushrooms
For a long time, the Tremella fuciformis only grew in the wild. It wasn’t until relatively recently that people started cultivating the mushrooms in China. In 1894 during the Qing Dynasty, it was discovered that they were, in fact, mycoparasites. In other words, fungi that eat other fungi, and therefore they needed other fungi for nutrition, rather than wood which is used by many well-known mushrooms.
For this reason, it is quite easy to grow Tremella mushrooms at home. You can buy the basic materials for Tremella mushrooms if you want to try your hand at growing them yourself.
Health Benefits of Tremella Mushrooms
Tremella mushrooms have a high level of antioxidants, as well as providing powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. They have been used in Chinese medicine since as early as 200AD. Tremella was extremely expensive at the time and only the nobility could afford to buy it.
Rich In Fiber
Tremella are rich in fiber when eaten fresh or dried. While it may sound counterintuitive to eat foods your body does not often absorb, fiber is incredibly important for your digestive health. Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and normalize blood glucose.
The Benefits of Tremella Mushroom Extract For the Skin
One of the most famous benefits of Tremella mushrooms is their ability to revitalize and protect your skin.
Tremella extract can reduce apoptosis. Apoptosis is when natural cell death occurs in our skin fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are cells that synthesize collagen and play a major role in healing wounds. Collagen is what makes our skin retain its elasticity and youth, so the better we can synthesize it, the better our skin looks.
High In Minerals, Antioxidants, And Vitamin D
Minerals, such as magnesium and zinc are essential to healthy brain and organ function, including our skin. Vitamin D is also essential for our skin health, and a 2014 study found that those with a vitamin D deficiency had a greater occurrence of acne.
Antioxidants are also an important part of keeping our skin healthy and youthful, as they work to fight oxidization in the cells and the occurrence of free radicals, which essentially destroy the cell from within.
The Tremella mushroom’s anti-inflammatory qualities can help fight off inflammatory diseases like heart disease, high cholesterol, and tumors. These anti-inflammatory qualities also help reduce inflammation around spots and clogged pores, which helps skin look smoother and more even toned.
How To Cook Tremella Mushrooms
These white wood ear mushrooms are extremely edible, and are a common ingredient in traditional Chinese soups, which can make a delicious lunch or dinner allowing you to reap the health benefits we just discussed.
You will need:
- 3 cups of dried Tremella mushroom (easily found in Asian grocery stores or on online), or the fresh equivalent if you grow it yourself
- 6 dried and chopped dates
- 1 handful of goji berries (often found in Asian grocery stores, online, or in health-food stores)
- 1 handful of dried lotus seeds
First, you will need to re-hydrate the dried Tremella in water until it blooms into a soft, fluffy cloud shape. Next, cut it into small pieces and put it into a pressure cooker with water.
Add the remaining ingredients into the pot. Leave it to simmer for three to four hours. The final product should be a viscous, dark amber broth. The Tremella should melt into the soup and will take on a slippery, jelly texture. At the same time, the natural sweetness of the dried dates seeps into the broth.
If you don’t enjoy the jelly-like texture of Tremella, you can also buy it in extract form and take it as a supplement or add it to other dishes.
You can use Tremella mushrooms for a variety of purposes, from improving skin health to benefitting from its anti-inflammatory properties. It grows quickly and in a huge number of places across the globe.
It is versatile and extremely beautiful and unusual looking which makes it even more appealing.
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