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Doctor ofShroomology
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Farmer Cultivates Corn Smut Fungus for Specialty Food Market
    #4541372 - 08/16/05 07:21 AM (12 years, 9 months ago)


Farmer Cultivates Corn Smut Fungus for Specialty Food Market

Aug. 14--In Mexico, it's called huitlacoche or cuitlacoche, and nicknamed maize mushroom or Mexican truffle.

Here, farmers call it corn smut.

It's a fungus that grows on corn plants and, at this time of year, can balloon into a greenish, grayish and eventually blackish bulbous mass.

While not considered a major threat to corn yields, farmers don't exactly jump up and down when they find it in their fields.

But in some regions in Mexico, it's considered a delicacy.

Some people relish straw or shiitake mushrooms. Others consider corn smut a treasure.

"It's like a mushroom, but grown in a different place," said John Peverly, University of Illinois Extension educator for Vermilion County. "The culture that relishes it rises from the southwest and from Central and South America, where corn originated."

As the number of Hispanic residents in Illinois increases, Hoopeston farmer Richard Layden, who in the past has sold specialty vegetables at Chicago farmers' markets, decided to target Hispanic consumers.

This year he set aside some of his land to growing corn inoculated with the fungus that produces smut.

"It's something new and I've got a lot of time on my hands. I thought it would be fun to do," Layden said.

He hopes to sell the smut or huitlacoche to a Mexican food distributor in Chicago.

A 16-ounce can retails for about $13.

With the help of some University of Illinois research assistants earlier this month, Layden inoculated 5,000 corn plants behind his farmhouse.

"Five thousand plants sounds like a lot, but it's a fraction of an acre," he said.

They used backpack sprayers to inoculate the silk channel, which is where the silk comes out of the corn plant's ear. The fungus can infect any part of the plant that's growing, but they aim for the ear.

For guidance, Layden sought out Jerald "Snook" Pataky, a University of Illinois professor of plant pathology who works primarily with diseases of sweet corn.

During the late 1980s to 1990s, Pataky was screening corn plants for resistance to smut by inoculating plants on the South Farms in Urbana.

"To make a long story short, unfortunately these inoculation techniques had not been very useful in screening for resistance ... but it's a great method to produce huitlacoche," Pataky said.

Eventually people such as Chicago chef Rick Bayless heard about what Pataky was doing.

Now Bayless's Frontera Grill and Topolobampo restaurants serve huitlacoche dishes, such as a green chile crepe with huitlacoche or a grilled duck with a chile and huitlacoche sauce.

"I've eaten lots of it when it's young and tender. It leaves a sweet taste in your mouth like you've never tasted before," Layden said.

"It's very unique," said Elvira De Mejia, University of Illinois assistant professor of food science and human nutrition. De Mejia, with UI professor George Fahey and other collaborators, is researching the nutritional value of huitlacoche, such as analyzing polysaccharides and looking at the effects of genotypes (or type of corn) and environmental conditions on the nutritional benefits of the huitlacoche.

"Flavorwise, they are delicious. It's a very different taste than other mushrooms," she said.


We got Nothing!
we're no longer selling jars.  :laugh:

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Registered: 09/11/04
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Re: Farmer Cultivates Corn Smut Fungus for Specialty Food Market [Re: MikeOLogical]
    #4542360 - 08/16/05 02:48 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

I got a error when trying that link. Is there a picture?


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fuck this site
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Re: Farmer Cultivates Corn Smut Fungus for Specialty Food Market [Re: pshawny]
    #4543590 - 08/16/05 09:17 PM (12 years, 9 months ago)

no pic but interesting article

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Re: Farmer Cultivates Corn Smut Fungus for Specialty Food Market [Re: pshawny]
    #4544242 - 08/17/05 12:00 AM (12 years, 9 months ago)

>>Is there a picture?

Here is a pic. Doesn't look very appetizing to me.

but many people must like it --> One Person's Disease Is Another Person's Delicacy

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