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Tremella mushrooms are generally white or yellow-white, semi-transparent mushrooms, although some varieties may be brown in color. Tremella mushrooms are soft and gelatinous when moist, and tend to shrink and become leathery with age. Tremella mushrooms consist of a lettuce-like fruiting body, attached to a central base. The lettuce-like structors are relatively thin, being around 0.5 millimeters in thickness, and hollow. Inconsistent in size, they can range from 4 to 15 centimeters in length. Tremella mushrooms are lacking in flavor, and are more about texture rather than taste. They are somewhat rubbery and soft, but have a slight bite to them.
Tremella mushrooms are available year-round.
The Tremella mushrooms are botanically known as Tremella fuciformis, Tremella foliacea, and Tremella reticulata. An imperial concubine Yang Guifei, who lived from 719 to 756 A.D., was said to be the most beautiful woman in Chinese history. It is said that when asked what her secret to beauty was, she replied: "Tremella Mushroom”. They are also known as the Silver Ear mushroom, Snow Fungus, and White Jelly Fungus. They have been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a tonic for overall immune health for over 2,000 years. The Chinese value the Tremella mushroom because it is said to help improve the complexion and overall appearance of the skin. Companies in France and Japan have begun to explore the Tremella mushroom as an ingredient in topical beauty creams and cosmetics.
Tremella mushrooms contain high amounts of fiber and vitamin D. In a study done on mice, Tremella mushrooms were found to be among the top cancer and tumor-inhibiting fungi. Tremella mushrooms have been shown to be effective in treating leukopenia, the loss of white blood cells, in cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. Tremella mushrooms have been found to help lower blood glucose levels and cholesterol, and can help boost the body’s antioxidant levels.
Tremella mushrooms are mostly enjoyed cooked. One of the most common ways to prepare the Tremella mushroom is to turn it into a simple, soup-like dessert, called Snow Fungus soup. Served hot or cold, it is often made during auspicious occasions such as Chinese New Year, or at weddings. Tremella mushrooms are trimmed of any hard, yellow parts on the underside of the fungus, then are cut into pieces and boiled along with other flavor enhancing ingredients. Complementary ingredients include ginko nuts, longans, and red dates. Tremella mushrooms may also be found in hot appetizer soups, and in main dishes. Tremella mushrooms may be sautéed in olive oil and butter, just like regular mushrooms. To retain their jelly-like texture, store Tremella mushrooms in the refrigerator, where they will last for several days. Tremella mushrooms are most often found dried. When soaked and rehydrated, they return to almost the same texture and consistency as the fresh Tremella mushroom. Dried Tremella mushrooms can be stored in the freezer, where they will last for several months.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Tremella mushrooms are used to treat cough-related conditions, from asthma to dry coughs and heat in the lungs. Tremella mushrooms are said to nourish the kidneys, lungs and stomach. The skin in TCM is related to the lungs, and thus Tremella mushrooms are seen as providing benefits both internally and externally. Tremella mushrooms were also used to help with digestive ailments, and even to help promote the secretion of saliva.
The Tremella mushroom grows in subtropical and tropical parts of the world. It originated in Brazil, but now is grown primarily in Taiwan, China, Japan, and in other Asian countries. Tremella mushrooms grow on decomposing logs, and cultivation of this mushroom began around 1914 in China. Traditionally, the Tremella mushroom was considered a delicacy. New cultivation techniques began in 1968, and has led to the Tremella being more widely grown. Once available to only the rich, Tremella mushrooms are also now cheaper and more available to the general public than in the past.