On a recent visit to a friend's farm this week, I noticed something strange out of the corner of my eye. At first glance I thought it was a wasps' nest attached to a corn husk. My friend explained to me that it was corn smut, a type of plant fungus that grows on the outside of corn.
The last desire I had was to eat whatever this gnarly grey growth was. Little did I know that people in Mexico have been eating corn smut (or, as they call it, huitlacoche) for hundreds of years. Immature galls of huitlacoche are commonly used in quesadillas, soups, and other tortilla-based dishes.
Not only is huitlacoche supposedly very tasty, but it is also loaded with unique proteins, minerals, and high levels of various vitamins. For example, it is packed with lysine, an essential amino acid, that corn alone doesn't have. Just goes to show that you can't judge a corn husk by its fungus. Next time I'm in Mexico, I'll be sure to order up some quesadillas de huitlacoche, and report back.
Photo and text by Anna Hunziker, WishGarden Herbs