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Aug 21, 2009 10:14 AM

Cuitlacoche (huitlacoche) on NPR

All Things Considered had this story on huitlacoche, the corn fungus, last night:

I don't think of it as all as tar-like. I think of it as el super yum.

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  1. I tried huitlacoche which I found canned at the local Mexican grocery store. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't that great either. It was kind of soggy and had a dirt taste.

    I'd like to try fresh to see if there's an inherent sweetness from the corn, but I haven't seen any locally... Also, I'm not really in a hurry to look for it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dave_c

      It is more mushroomy than sweet, a lovely deep earthy flavor. I would not say sweet at all. But delicious. I would put it right up there in my top ten favorite foods along with Morel mushrooms.

      1. re: Snackish

        Me too. I think you could put corn smut on a cigarette butt and it would be tasty.

        el super yum.

    2. oh, it is so good, to say you tried it canned and didn't much like it is like saying you tried canned corn and didn't like it. The fresh is completely different It is smokey has a great depth of flavor, and is wonderful

      1. I've very interested in finding fresh... Any suggestions? I'm in the Seattle area.

        7 Replies
        1. re: dave_c

          The dominant supplier of fresh huitlacoche to high-end American restaurants is Roy Burns in Groveland, Florida, outside Orlando. He sells retail with a 5-lb. minimum. Phone is 352-429-4048. Fresh is very seasonal, but it freezes well. The "farmed" American is considered milder than the naturally -occurring in Mexico.

          1. re: Veggo

            Wow,frozen, I 'd like to taste that after dealing with it fresh I am suprised to learn that it freezes well, it is so soft and delicate. I bought some in the market in Oaxaca, Mexico, out of the arpon pocket of a woman who was selling it it. I had an apartment so was cooking alot. It only lasted at peak for about a day,hyper fragile and delicious. Comparing fresh to canned is like comparing fresh peas right off the vine to canned, khaki, mushy peas that taste like, well, a can.

          2. re: dave_c

            Update to dave c et al: Roy Burns is truly America's king of huitlacoche, all on a 13 acre field. His minimum quantity is 10 pounds, $11/ lb., frozen in 2 pound bags, plus packing and shipping. He sells to 2 brokers, who in turn sell to wholesalers who sell to restaurants. The west coast broker is Trent @ Sierra Madre Mushrooms in Arcata, CA. 707-822-1700. His minimum is also 10 pounds, $16/lb., but he could refer a retail buyer to the nearest wholesaler, who presumably sells smaller quantities. The East Coast broker is Balder Specialty Foods in the Bronx, 718-304-4521.
            Roy has about 1000 lbs. frozen now, basically to serve the U.S. until his next harvest in mid-October. I'm delighted to learn that he is a 2-hour drive from me, I plan to visit his operation and buy a supply in a few weeks when he is done planting. This is sexy stuff!

            1. re: Veggo

              It can also be an acquired taste my friend, especially if one doesn't care for mushrooms or other fungi :-)

              Since I travel in Mexico a lot I've had the opportunity to try it a lot and always fresh. The first time I tried it in tacos I thought I'd gotten a mouthful of dirt. Totally underwhelmed and could not understand what the fuss was. Over the years it got better (liked it as an omelet filling) but it never just knocked my socks off. Then, in July 2007 I had the opportunity to cook with Diana Kennedy in Zitacuaro, Mex. July is peak season there and the markets were full of huitlacoche vendors. Great huge mounds of purplish black fungus for blocks. We took it back, cooked it up and I swear those tacos were some of the best stuff I've ever put in my mouth. It took a long time, but I finally understood.

              For those in SoCal, fresh huitlacoche is available in Tijuana and there is usually no problem bringing it across the border.

              1. re: DiningDiva

                DD, I'm glad you eventually acquired a taste for it. For me it was love at first bite. When I lived in D.F., my lady friend had a country home in Michoacan, and when the huitlacoche was available in it's slender season, we would drive around to every little town and she would buy all of it we found. She was a great cook and recognized it as black gold. I called it "corn cancer", until I tried her first casserole made with it. Now I'm intrigued to learn that one of few sources of it is 90 minutes from me in Florida. Roy and I are going to be good friends...he is quite a character on the phone. I am learning a lot about it.

                1. re: Veggo

                  I think it's pretty awesome that it's available in Florida. I found resources for it in Indiana, I think, but being so close to the border I can just go to TJ and get it if I want it.

                  Fresh is the only way to go. We've got a local Mexican place that does tacos de huitlacoche with fresh product. The owner is from Tijuana and he regular sources it there and brings it across. It's definitely not $16/lb there :-)

                  Good luck with your project.

            2. re: dave_c

              I talked to the lady I buy fresh corn from and she admitted she never has it for market because all of the field hands find it and take it home before she has a chance to get her hands on it.