Snow fungus is traditionally eaten for its medicinal health benefits. Also called Silver Ear fungus or Wood Ear fungus, it naturally grows on a variety of trees in many countries with tropical or sub-tropical climates. It has been cultivated in China for at least a century. It is commonly labeled as white fungus and sold in its dried form. It is white in color, almost translucent. The superior quality of snow fungus is more yellowish in color and with a mucilage like texture.
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 it 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 about ten 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.