Even if you’re not a foodie, you’ve probably heard of truffles — a fungus that is highly valued by top chefs for its scarcity and unique flavor. But there’s a variation of this ingredient that you might not know much (if anything) about.
What is huitlacoche?
Although this so-called “Mexican truffle” has been enjoyed across the country for centuries, it’s recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity and demand has skyrocketed globally over the past several years.
In basic terms, huitlacoche is a type of bulbous fungus that naturally develops on the ears of undeveloped corn. It forms more readily during periods of heavy rain, although enterprising farmers have developed a way to introduce the fungus into crops artificially, thus increasing the yield of what has commonly come to be known as “black gold.”
The fungus has been eaten since it was first discovered during the Aztec Empire, but it wasn’t known as a particularly valuable commodity until much later. In fact, many farms across the U.S. have gone to great lengths to remove the fungus in favor of protecting the corn itself.
Why is it so coveted?
As for what keeps the value of this fungus hovering at about $40 per pound, there are a few factors to consider. Basically it comes down to three important factors:
Mexican chefs have figured out how to use huitlacoche in seemingly countless applications, from high-end meals to roadside quesadillas. And the word has now spread to all corners of the world … including, albeit somewhat reluctantly, in the United States.
Some areas with large Hispanic populations have started to embrace the Mexican truffle. Elsewhere in the States, however, there’s some ambivalence.
An internet search could return either results for a tasty dish or tips for removing an invasive nuisance.