There are very few wild mushrooms around in winter, but Jew’s ears (Auricularia auricular-judae) are an exception and easy to find in almost any weather . . .
This gets its name from its supposed resemblance to a human ear and because Judas was supposed to have hanged himself on an elder (although it can grow on other deciduous species, it is usually found on this tree weed). It has a rubbery texture and one identification trick is to check its elasticity between the fingers. Most guides don’t rate it highly, but it is worth adding to the repertoire, not least because it grows virtually all year. Its flavour is surprisingly good (a close relative is used extensively in Chinese cooking), but the texture is slightly gelatinous. One solution is to shred it finely and then fry in hot oil (watch out – it will spit). This results in crispy, crunchy, slivers that have the texture of the seaweed lookalike that is used so often in Oriental dishes. The Italians also slice if finely and Antonio Carluccio has an interesting recipe where it is fried in olive oil with a little chilli, garlic, basil and lemon, before tossing it to coat good quality tagliatelle.