Huitlacoche: Mexico's truffle

Despite its unattractive appearance, huitlacoche has been consumed since prehispanic times to the present

File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

09/09/2017 17:56

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Undoubtedly, maize is one of the essential components of Mexican cuisine. From tortilla to nixtamalized dough, traditional preparations such as esquites (cooked corn kernels, usually in a juicy mix with chiles, and topped with mayo, crumbly cheese, salt, chile powder, and lime juice) and tamales (a traditional Mesoamerican dish made of corn-based dough steamed in corn husk or banana leaf), this plant has a great variety of uses and since prehispanic times has been a symbol of Mexico.

Huitlacoche is a maize derived product. It is a fungus called Ustiligo maydis, which grows parasitic on the plant causing deformities. Therefore, it is no surprise that in the United States, Europe, and South America, entire harvests of affected maize are dismissed as soon as they are “contaminated”.

The fungus grows among kernels and promotes their disproportional growth and a drastic change of color from white to dark gray and black.

Despite its unattractive appearance, huitlacoche has been consumed since prehispanic times to the present, however, its culinary use was more reached its peak in the twentieth century.

During the rainy season in Mexico, between July and September, it is common to find it in popular markets.

In recent times, its acceptance and re-discovery by foreigners (especially in France where they introduced it to crepes) have led to its renaming and it is also known as "Mexican truffle", due to the similarity in its taste to both the black truffle and Japanese shiitake mushroom.


The most common preparation for huitlacoche is as cooked with onion, garlic, and epazote (an aromatic herb commonly used in Mexican cuisine) in quesadillas (a tortilla, filled with cheese or other ingredients and grilled), but huitlacoche sauce and soup are common as well. 

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