An interesting article hit the AP wire yesterday about huitlacoche, a Mexican delicacy often called "corn smut," or occasionally, "Mexican truffle." The article reported on findings in the Food Chemistry journal about the health benefits of this tasty, odd-looking treat. In the U.S., huitlacoche has been known as a major problem for corn farmers, with the fungus infecting large groups of crops which were then thrown away. Little did they know that it was not only healthier than corn, but it was also worth more money.
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The huitlacoche fungus takes over the entire ear of corn, causing it to change into something altogether different. The result is a product packed with lysine, while also containing more beta-glucan than oatmeal. Corn, in its ordinary state, has neither.
The article goes on to refer to a 2007 study at the University of Wisconsin in which they found that a farmer could make far more money selling huitlacoche than the corn itself. An ear of sweet corn costs less than a dime to produce, with profits of a few cents, while huitlacoche costs 41 cents, but has a profit of close to 80 cents.
Our restaurant scene got some mention in the AP report as well, citing local treasure La Casita Mexicana as one of the restaurants in the country with huitlacoche on the menu. But La Casita isn't the only one. Among the others are Guelaguetza and Monte Alban, which sell huitlacoche empanadas, while El Huarache Azteca offers a huitlacoche quesadilla on weekends. If you want to pick one up on the go, you can also swing by the Oaxacan quesadilla cart on Echo Park Avenue and grab one stuffed inside of a hand-made blue corn tortilla.