Huitlacoche/ Corn smut/ Usilago maydis

Huitlacoche is a soil-borne organism that grows on the corn kernels themselves and is known botanically as usilago maydis. It is smooth and dry to the touch, spongy in texture, and becomes a rich, black puree as it cooks. Its taste has been compared to several European varieties of wild mushroom, and is often described as being “earthy.”

Huitlacoche, this unappealing name is the translation of the Nahuatl name “Huitlacoche”, classified as a mushroom by the Aztecs, who listed it as one of the six varieties of edible mushrooms, which Spanish chronicler Bernardino de Sahagún was told must be either cooked in a pot or toasted on a comal. The Maya, too, used Huitlacoche, boiled, roasted or cooked as tamales in corn husks. (The Maya, in fact, classified the protein-rich mushrooms in the same food group as meat.)

Like other crops of the ancients, scientists are discovering the super food benefits of Huitlacoche. Many food scientists in Mexico and The University of Illinois reported in the journal, Food Chemistry, the metabolic change that occurs in corn kernels “infected” by the fungus. Huitlacoche is high in protein and lysine (an essential amino acid valued for muscle building and skin care), and has more soluble fiber than oatmeal. Cooks and food fanciers in the United States and elsewhere have tried to rename corn smut as “Mexican truffles” in an attempt to make it more appealing to the non-Latino palate. Outside Mexico, however, neither cultivation itself nor establishing Huitlacoche as a truffle-like trend setter have been terribly successful.

Are you ready to rush right out and get some? You can buy canned Huitlacoche in the U.S. in Mexican groceries or in gourmet specialty stores but fresh Huitlacoche is hard to come by and very expensive. It can cost anywhere from ten to twenty dollars per pound depending upon the region where you live. Fresh, young, immature Huitlacoche is the best because ripe tends to be dried out and a bit powdery.

Huitlacoche Quesadillas
*Cookinginmexico*

Ingredients
½ lb fresh huitlacoche, cut off the cobs and coarsely chopped
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 springs epazote, thinly sliced
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 poblano chile, rasted, peeled and cut into strips
4 corn or flour tortillas
¾ cup thinly sliced cheese, Oaxaca or Monterrey Jack
Salt to taste

Instructions
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Sautee onion and garlic until tender but not brown. Add Huitlacoche, poblano strips, and epazote and cook about 10 minutes. Salt to taste. Heat an oiled griddle and divide Huitlacoche mixture evenly among them, placing on one side of tortilla. Place chesse on Huitlacoche. Fold tortilla in half. Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side or until chesses is melted and tortilla is starting to brown.

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