Common smut (Huitlacoche)

Entre menos burros, más olotes. (The fewer the donkeys, the more cobs of corn)

Mexican proverb

huitlacocheI had heard about huitlacoche (also spelled cuitlacoche) for many years, but never had the opportunity to buy it. I’d tasted it , but never had the opportunity to cook with it.

After a rain the fungus can develop randomly on ears of organic corn as they ripen. Huitlacoche (Ustilago maydis) consumes the kernels and pushes through the shucks, easily visible. It is also known as corn mushroom, corn smut or Mexican truffle. Corn has little of the amino acid lysine, while huitlacoche is full of this nutrient that the body needs but cannot itself manufacture. It contains more beta-glucen (reduces cholesterol) than oatmeal and has more protein than most mushrooms.

While huitlacoche can sell for more than the corn it infects (up to 80 cent profit vs. only a few cents per ear), farmers and the U.S. government have incurred millions of dollars trying to eradicate the “blight” that can “destroy” as much as 10 per cent of a corn crop.

Huitlacoche can be used as you would a mushroom:  fresh, huitlacoche is soft and velvety and can be used raw in salads. When cooked they give off an inky liquid like a squid, turning them black. With with a taste like mushrooms mixed with corn.

Huitlacoche adds a smoky, earthy flavor to tamales, stews, soups, quesadillas and even desserts – I’ve seen huitlacoche-flavored ice cream on restaurant menus NoB.

Rodrigo & Gabriela – One, Take 5

A guitar duo from Mexico City.

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