Food that is supposed to protect jing is easy to identify by its color: many of them are very dark or black. Examples include lentils, seaweed, black sesame, black beans, wild rice, bone broth, oysters, blackberries and, one of my favorite foods, the black forest ear mushroom, also known as cloud ear mushroom or black mushroom (Auricularia).
Although this mushroom is relatively new to Western cuisine, it has been used in Asian cuisine for hundreds of years. From a TCM point of view, forest ear mushrooms are healthy for all five main organs: heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys.
Research shows that this little mushroom has immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticoagulant properties. It’s also high in melanin, which can protect your hair and skin from free radicals and UV rays, polyphenols, and micronutrients like copper and iron, which are essential ingredients in red blood cell formation. In a recent study on rats, the powerful antioxidant in Wood Ear was also shown to have liver-protecting properties.
In general, edible mushrooms are high in fiber and prebiotic fiber in the form of beta-glucan. Prebiotic fibers are the precursors in the production of probiotics in the gut microbiome. As we now know, having a healthy gut microbiome is fundamental to our digestive health, metabolic health, and immune health.
Wood ear mushrooms are available in most health food stores and Asian supermarkets. They are usually sold dry and therefore have a long shelf life. (Before cooking, all you need to do is soak dried wooden ears in cold water for a few hours to rehydrate.) Their chewy texture and neutral taste make them a versatile ingredient for salads, stir-fries, stews, soups, warming congee, and the like Recipe – my favorite winter tonic, which is basically a dessert in disguise.