Huitlacoche

May 21, 2013

Huitlacoche refers to the edible growths that result from maize infected with the corn smut fungus.  “Corn mushroom” or “Mexican truffle” are alternate names. The etymology of the Nahuatl-based name is less appetizing, but true to its English names, huitlachoche tastes of mushrooms; specifically it tastes earthy, savory, sweet, and woody–the latter of which result from the present flavor compounds vanillin and sotolon.

Though the United States Department of Agriculture has spent considerable time and money to eradicate corn smut within the country, for nearly 20 years chefs have tried to introduce this plant-fungus amalgam to high-end cuisine. Huitlacoche is harvested as immature galls 2-3 weeks after corn is infected.  After this time, the galls become dry and spore-filled and are largely inedible.

South of the border though, Huitlachoche is canned or eaten fresh. It finds culinary use in quesadillas, soups, and other tortilla-based dishes.

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