The Thing You Learned Today: Huitlacoche

Just in time for lunchtime 

Huitlacoche means “raven’s excrement” in Aztec, but it’s not actually dung. It’s just fungus. Corn fungus, to be exact.

A delicacy and common flavoring ingredient in many traditional Mexican dishes, huitlacoche grows naturally on the ears of corn. It is often used in dishes like quesadillas and tamales to impart a smokey, earthy flavor. In 1989, the James Beard foundation even held a huitlacoche upscale dinner, though they renamed it as a “Mexican truffle.”

According to Wikipedia, huitlacoche (aka “corn smut” … yummy!) develops when a pathogenic plant fungus “enters the ovaries and replaces the normal kernels of the cobs with large distorted tumors analogous to mushrooms. These tumors, or ‘galls’, are made up of much-enlarged cells of the infected plant, fungal threads, and blue-black spores. The spores give the cob a burned, scorched appearance.”

You can find huitlacoche in canned form in most Mexican groceries if you look hard enough. As for restaurants, Zazil serves pollo con huitlacoche and Tres Agaves offers chile relleno con huitlacoche en salsa jitomate.

So now you know the following tidbits: Huitlacoche is corn fungus. You can find it easily if you know where to look. And corn has ovaries.

Feel free to impress your friends.

Zazil [MenuPages]
Tres Agaves [MenuPages]
Corn smut [Wikipedia]

The Thing You Learned Today: Huitlacoche