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What Is Huitlacoche?

Huitlacoche is the name for a kind of fungus that is considered a delicacy. The scientific name of huitlacoche is Ustilagomaydis and this fungus grows on the ears of corn. Many people Mexico and the indigenous people from the southwestern part of the United States love to use this culinary ingredient in making such food items as soups, tamales, ice creams and quesadillas. Farmers actually consider and treat huitlacoche as an infectious plant disease that can ruin their crops of corn. But in the cuisine of the Hopi, Zuni and Aztecs, huitlacoche is much loved.

The word huitlacoche actually comes from two words in the native language of ancient Aztecs called Nahuatl. The word Huitlatl means excrement while the word coche means raven. Europeans attempted to call huitlacoche by other names like maize mushroom, Mexican truffle and Aztec caviar, but it never really caught on.

Huitlacoche is considered a rare delicacy because the fungus will only appear as the corn ripens after weather has been particular high in moisture. There are some farmers that have attempted to actually cultivate the fungus without much success. The huitlacoche looks like grey or silver bulbs that are located inside the ears of certain corn kernels. Infected ears of corn would swell and turn continuously gray as the fungus spores grow on the corn. The huitlacoche is easily harvested because the harvesting is just similar to how normal corn kernels are harvested. From here, the huitlacoche can now be prepared for different foods.

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