I have not been able to enjoy many mushrooms in the Dominican Republic, because there are few if any identification resources; the local inhabitants are no help with this. I was pleased, therefore, when I discovered the Mexican corn mushroom, or huitlacoche, in my corn field. Just one problem: the nonnative African weaverbirds seem to like it as much as I do. More often than not, when I peeled a bird-damaged ear of corn, I found the telltale black sockets where the mushrooms had been. It was very rare that I was able to get to the mushrooms before the weaverbirds did; but when I did, what a treat for my taco filling!
If only I could find a way to keep the birds away long enough for me to get those mushrooms myself. How do they tell which ears have the mushrooms, when the husk hides what is going on inside?
Bird netting a section so you get some of the awesomely delicious fungus might be the only way you can beat the birds.
I am fairly sure they can smell the tasty treats within the ear long before the husks start showing the pinkish hue the fungus imparts to them.
Huitlacoche, or Ustilago maydis, is a fungus, but not a mushroom.
It blooms when water gets inside the corn husk, it infects and destroys the kernels of corn and it is best used after just a few weeks of growing.
If you grow corn and ever find "corn smut" infected ears, it means your land has the spores.
Since we know that to infect an ear water has to get between the husk and the cob, we can induce the probability of growing this fungi, even though it isn't a guarantee it's worth a try.
If you have never had this delicacy you should, it is the food of the gods according to the Maya culture, only high priests and the king were allowed to eat it.
The Aztec culture had everyone eating this tasty "Mexican truffle".
Interestingly, despite the fact that huitlacoche infects the corn, it actually significantly improves on the health benefits of corn.
The fungus has notably more protein than healthy corn contains, and a far greater portion of lysine, an essential amino acid.
Wow what an amazing fungi. Never seen the like here. Thanks for the ID Bryant I'm on a learning curve now (my happy place).
I imagine, it being food destined for Gods, if you were to learn to propagate it, it would be worth more than corn. The crop could be redirected into ethanol or stock feed after fungal harvest - perhaps. Just ruminating, fungi get me oh so excited.
Unfortunately Ustilago maydis destroys the corn kernel so ears with the fungus would not be suitable for ethanol production, nor would it be a good choice for stock feed since most animals that we use for food don't like fungus.
It does however leave the cobs in a condition that makes them good fire fuel once dehydrated.
It is pretty easy to determine if an ear has been "infected" because the shucks will take on a pink hue where the fungus is present.
propagation is possible by taking infected kernels and grinding them to make a paste then inoculate good ears by injection and adding water after the inoculation.
It isn't fool proof since there is only around a 50% success rate at this time.
I got to taste huitlachoche tamales for the first time recently; they were sooo good! A very delectable delicacy for sure!
"The Aztecs intentionally inoculated [sic] their corn with (huitlacoche) spores by scratching the base of corn stalk with a soil-smeared knife." - EatTheWeeds.com/Corn-Smut-Mexican-Truffles The above link is a great article complete with recipes. However, I'm pretty sure there are still Aztecs cultivating huitlachoche using traditional methods! Don't know why folks insist on talking about living indigenous peoples & their practices in the past tense!