Health Benefits of Black Fungus
Traditionally used in Chinese cooking, the health benefits of black fungus or ear mushroom are often overlooked by modern Chinese themselves. They are also called cloud ear, wood ear mushrooms or tree ear mushrooms and it derives its various names from where it grows and its shape. It grows on a variety of dead woods and looks like the ear in its original dry form. When soaked, it expands to many times its original size, forming a rubbery mass of twirls that look like the shape of a billowing cloud.
Black fungus benefits your health in many ways. In more modern times, black fungus has been found to possess anticoagulant properties and prevent blood clotting in blood vessels. In terms of taste and price, it is a much better alternative to pig liver as a good source of iron, containing black-fungusup to seven times of iron compared to pig liver which actually taste awful. Lack of iron in the blood can cause anemia, a condition that makes a person feels weak and tired easily due to inadequate oxygen in the blood.
Besides this, black fungus is also rich in protein, vitamins D, B1 and B2. It is also a good source of calcium, reportedly containing twice the amount of calcium compared to milk. The Chinese traditionally eat this to improve the quality of blood and blood circulation, thus helping a person to live longer. Recent reports allude to it being able to help prevent cancer.
It is interesting to note that black fungus has been discovered to be growing in the radioactive environment of Chernobyl in Russia. It was found to be rich with melanin, the pigment that protects the skin against damage by ultraviolet light from the sun. The ability of black fungus to thrive in such a damaging environment could provide benefits that may prove to be useful to people.
Black fungus has great benefits but very little taste on its own. Before cooking, it has to be soaked in adequate water for at least fifteen minutes and then cut into strips. For convenience, dried black fungus in strips form are also available in supermarkets. It is traditionally cooked with stirred fried vegetables like cabbage, carrot, bean sprouts or broccoli, or even chicken meat strips. It can also be added to rice porridge, herbal soups or added as part of a salad dish.
Health Benefits of White Fungus (Snow Fungus)
White fungus, also called snow fungus, is traditionally eaten for its medicinal health benefits. It has been cultivated in China for at least a century. It is commonly labeled as white fungus and sold in its dried form. The superior quality of snow fungus is more yellowish in color and with a mucilage like texture. When soaked, it expands and becomes whiter.
Research has shown that polysaccharides found in snow fungus helps to increase the body’s immune system. Scientific tests have shown its ability to fight and prevent cancer and is traditionally popular as an anti-aging food. A useful benefit of snow fungus is the prevention of leukopenia, or low white blood cell counts, in people who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
The Chinese have traditionally used white fungus to cure dry coughs and also heart palpitations, and to help stabilize the nervous system. At the same time, snow fungus is commonly used as a stimulating herb and also as a beauty augmenting medicine. It is also consumed for the benefit of improving the skin tone. However, it is reported that consuming excessive amounts of these may lead to internal bleeding.
It is commonly eaten in Asian countries like China, Vietnam, and South East Asian countries where it is used as part of an ingredient in sweet dessert soups and herbal soups. Before cooking, it has to be soaked in water for more than 15 minutes to bring out the soft, jelly-like texture. The fungus by itself is tasteless and is slightly crunchy.
To get the health benefits of snow fungus, there are many ways to cook it with. A popular dessert soup would involve boiling white fungus with sugar, gingko nuts, longan (a popular Chinese fruit). It can also be served in Chinese chicken herbal soups with ginger and wolfberries. Another way of eating it is mixing it in a salad dish to make the dish crunchier.