With any mushroom, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between those that are good to eat and those that have begun to spoil. Perhaps you’ve just harvested a bumper crop of wood ears and you’re wondering how long you have to use them up. How long do they last in storage? Keep reading! In this article we’ll talk about how to tell if wood ear mushrooms are bad and how long you have before they end up that way.
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How Long Do Wood Ear Mushrooms Last in Storage?
Generally speaking, wood ear mushrooms have a pretty short shelf life. However, they will last for different amounts of time depending on whether they are stored fresh, frozen, or dried.
Fresh wood ear mushrooms should be used fairly soon after you buy or harvest them. They are best within the first day or two after harvest.
That said, you can keep them in the fridge for up to four or five days as long as the fridge is cold enough (colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit).
For best results, store fresh wood ears in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towels, and keep them in a crisper drawer. Make sure they are stored loosely and are not jammed in with other items in the fridge, as they may become bruised and will go bad more quickly.
Store them whole to increase their shelf life. Those that have been cut into pieces will go bad much more quickly than those that are left whole.
Finally, do not wash them before storing them fresh. Washing them will cause them to absorb some of the rinse water, which in turn will cause them to spoil more quickly.
If you cooked a large batch of wood ears for a meal and you have leftovers, these can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days. For best results and maximum freshness, use up leftovers containing wood ears within a day or two after preparing them.
Wood ear mushrooms are rarely frozen; they are typically used fresh or dried.
However, if you have a large batch of fresh wood ears and don’t want to go to the trouble of drying them, you can store them in the freezer for up to a month.
Before freezing them, you should always cook them first. Cut them to the desired size, steam or saute the pieces for several minutes, then place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them.
Once they are frozen in a single layer, transfer them to airtight containers such as freezer bags or freezer-safe containers. Place these containers in the freezer.
Again, wood ear mushrooms can be stored in this way for up to a month.
Dried wood ear mushrooms are by far the most commonly used throughout the world. They are most frequently sold in dry form, and even those who forage them fresh from the woods often find that dehydrating them is the best way to preserve a large crop.
Dried wood ears can be stored for several months up to a year as long as they are stored properly.
They should be kept in an airtight container or bag to keep moisture from getting in. Store them in a cool, dry place, such as a dark pantry, kitchen cupboard, or even the refrigerator.
If you live outside of Asia, there’s a good chance that any wood ear mushrooms you buy will be dehydrated already. However, if you forage for fresh mushrooms, you will have to dehydrate them yourself before storing them.
The best way to do this is using a dehydrator. Cut your wood ears into evenly-sized pieces, place them in a single layer on dehydrator trays, and dry them on the lowest setting (about 100 to 110 degrees) for 4 to 8 hours.
To use dehydrated wood ear mushrooms, you will need to reconstitute them first. It’s important to note that they will swell up to four times their original size, so keep this in mind when deciding how many of your dried mushrooms to use.
Soak them fully submerged in warm to hot water for about 30 minutes, or in cold water for up to 2 hours. Then use them however you would use fresh wood ears.
How to Tell if Wood Ear Mushrooms Have Gone Bad?
It’s true that fresh wood ear mushrooms won’t last very long, even in the fridge. The good news is, it’s fairly easy to tell when they’ve started to go bad.
Knowing when your mushrooms are going bad is important because eating spoiled mushrooms can cause digestive upset. The most notable signs of wood ear mushroom spoilage include:
- Discoloration or dark spots: Wood ear mushrooms are supposed to be light to dark brown in color, though some may be almost black. If your mushrooms grow darker while they are in storage, this may be a sign that they are going bad.
Perhaps the mushrooms will still look mostly good, but you’ll notice that they have darker spots or areas that appear to be rotting. This is another indication that the mushrooms are going bad, and they should be discarded.
- Slimy, mushy texture: Wood ear mushrooms are supposed to have a firm, jelly-like texture with a soft, velvety feel. If you notice that the mushrooms have become soft, or they feel or look slimy, this is a sure sign that they are past the point of eating; discard them immediately.
- Bad smell: In general, mushrooms are supposed to have a mild, earthy sort of aroma. Wood ears, in particular, have almost no smell when they are fresh.
However, if they have begun to go bad, they will have a strong, repulsive odor. They may smell fishy, or they may simply give off a stronger-than-usual mushroom aroma; but if you notice a strong smell as soon as you open your fridge door or the package of mushrooms, it’s probably a good idea to discard them.
Check out this video for some good general information on storing fresh mushrooms and knowing how to determine if they’ve gone bad.
Wood ear mushrooms can be stored fresh in the fridge for a few days, frozen for up to a month, and dried for up to a year. Fresh mushrooms will show several obvious signs if they are beginning to go bad: they will become discolored, mushy or slimy, and they will have a strong, repulsive odor.