The white tree fungus (Tremella fuciformis), also known as snow fungus, grows on hardwood trees in temperate, subtropical and tropical locations. Edible, the white tree fungus offers a sweet taste addition to many desert dishes. The jelly-like fungus grows in 2-inch globs in frilly white forms on decomposing hardwood trees. Accelerated growth occurs after heavy rains.
The white fungus is widely coveted in China as an addition to sweet dishes. It also is believed to aid in the treatment of numerous health issues, such as high blood pressure, so it is widely valued as a herbal addition in a health food-based diet. Studies are underway to understand if white fungus might offer tumor-fighting capabilities and if it can stimulate the immune system, according to the University of Wisconsin.
For centuries, the white fungus has been sought by royalty and the upper class of China and Japan. The fungus was once quite expensive because it was not until recently that it could be successfully cultivated in captivity. For many years the fungus was believed to help combat tuberculosis and even colds.
White fungus appears to have a symbiotic relationship with the fungus Hypoxylon archeri. The two always occur together on decaying hardwood. It is believed that they work together. Hypoxylon archeri breaks down the wood so the white fungus can better use its nutrients, according to the University of Wisconsin.
Once the relationship between white fungus and Hypoxylon archeri was discovered, white fungus was able to be successfully cultivated for commercial distribution. By adding Hypoxylon archeri to wood chips within a plastic bag prior to the addition of white fungus, the two can flourish together and grow. The Hypoxylon archeri feeds off the wood chips and provides the white fungus with the necessary nutrients within the plastic bag to thrive.
White fungus is normally dried prior to sale. Once purchased, it requires boiling to restore it to its gelatinous form. By itself the white fungus does not have much flavor, but when added to foods and desserts if offers a mellow taste with a distinctive texture.