If you had told me two years ago that I would be eating corn smut, I would have told you you were crazy, but that's just what I did when I made these Cuitlacoche & Sweet Corn Quesadillas for lunch yesterday.
As far as we know, the Aztecs were the first brave souls to tast this strange-looking fungus and to this day it is a popular delicacy in Mexico, with millions of pounds harvested each year. You can find it canned and frozen, but there is nothing like fresh "cuitlacoche" or "huitlacoche." It's a fungus that grows inside each corn kernel, making it expand to huge proportions and turn gray, then black. Finally it bursts, spreading its spores to other ears and to the ground, where it rests to re-infect sweet corn fields the following year. Because of its amino acid profile, it is a complete protein and therefore a good meat substitute and actually more nutritious than plain sweet corn.
The last time we were in Mexico, my friend Manuela bought some cuitlacoche at the market and, with some trepidation, I tasted the soft tacos filled with "Mexican Truffles" and loved them. So, when my friend Pam emailed me the other day about finding "corn from outer space" in the corn patch, I knew just what she was talking about and she took me to the patch. Of course, she thought that I was from "outer space" to even consider eating the smut and I know she will never taste it. More for me!