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Here’s Everything You Need To Know Before Eating Huitlacoche?

Huitlacoche is also known as “corn smut” or “Mexican truffle" and is a corn fungus that has the capability to do much more than just fill quesadillas. Keep reading to find out more about this organism and why diners in the US are not eating more of it.

By Cookist
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The huitlacoche, aka cuitlacoche, is a sporous fungus that lives off corn, feeding on it before its ears fully develop.

A spread of the huitlacoche usually happens durng annual rainy seasons and often results in bulbous, blue-gray growths that deform maize kernels into freak show.

It has a deeply earthy flavour but not in the cliche sense in which most fungi get described. The Huitlacoche has a smokiness to it, with subtle notes of sweetness emanating from the corn’s sugars.

When it is cooked, its texture presents a soft chew formed from the corn’s soluble fibres. It is very similar to the mushrooms chefs today love in their dishes.

Today, huitlacoche is regarded as a delicacy in Mexico and can be found everywhere, from food stands to open-air markets to top-rated restaurants.

The huitlacoche is a seasonal ingredient with a short harvesting period so getting a fresh one is not so easy for the average Mexican shopper.

Should they find a fresh one, it is considered a great find and an exciting occurrence for corn farmers throughout the country.

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Common uses of the Huitlacoche include creamy sauces, omelets, tamales, or in a tortilla for a vegetarian taco packed with umami flavour.

The fungus is also sold by street food vendors throughout Mexico City commonly in huitlacoche quesadillas which are made with fresh blue corn tortillas.

However outside Mexico, particularly in the neighbouring United States, huitlacoche is very rare. In fact, the general absence of huitlacoche on menus here is an indication of just how bad its rap is.

So what is it about this ingredient that makes it so different from coveted chanterelles, maitakes, or pricey truffles?

The reason can be traced to the European colonization and the adoption of certain Mesoamerican crops over others.

Certain cultural assumptions as well as other barriers are most likely the reason huitlacoche is kept off U.S. grocery shelves.

Just searching the fungus on Google revealed labelling like "invasive” disease, a “blight” or an undesirable “infection,” rather than just a food item.

Of course it is understandable. Huitlacoche’s blue-grey-black appearance does not exactly appeal to Americans. Include its classification as a fungus and its description as a “disease,” and consumers quickly assume it’s inedible.

The average price of fresh huitlacoche in the United States usually runs up to $15 to $20 per pound, significantly higher than fresh corn, which sells for about $5 a bundle.

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Unfortunately, in the U.S., farmers consider corn fungus to be a nuisance as it wreaks havoc on their yields and clogs up harvesting equipment.

In fact, the USDA dedicated years of research to getting rid of huitlacoche by using fungicides and hybrid corn species that are resistant to its spores.

Why they did so is understandable given how farmers felt about it but in truth, huitlacoche has a variety of uses.

It could enhance creamy risottos, complex soups, or even delicate sauces but for the stereotype linked to it to get broken, chefs and diners need to consider it for exactly what it is — food.

Huitlacoche is known to contain high levels of protein, unsaturated fats, and an amino acid known as lysine that strengthens immune systems and bones.

It’s a great meat substitute, nutritious addition to any plant-based diet, and a rare biological occurrence.

More studies need to be conducted to make it more acceptable by Americans but hopefully in the future, many will come to see it as more than a fungus.

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