Dining

Smut Peddlers

The Mexican corn truffle is good medicine

As far as ingredients go, huitlacoche is no beauty queen; the stuff looks more like refuse than treasure.

But despite its ominous brainlike appearance, the fungus has long been appreciated for its earthy perfume and rich, mushroomy flavor. And now there's another reason to seek it out: It's a superfood.

Huitlacoche--also known as corn smut or corn truffles--was thought to possess roughly the same nutritional attributes as the corn it contaminates. However, a recent study published in Food Chemistry reveals that it contains loads of lysine, which discourages infection and builds bones, as well as more cholesterol-killing beta-glucens than oatmeal.

Those findings may attract new health-food fans, but chefs have relished the ingredient for years. Chef Rick Bayless stuffs it in everything from tacos (click here to download a recipe) to savory tarts at Frontera Grill in Chicago. And in Washington, D.C., chef Jose Andres mixes it with wild mushrooms for a deeply flavored quesadilla at Café Atlantico.

Whether you want to get your hands on some huitlacoche for the nutrients or the peerless taste, it can be a challenge to find. Look for it fresh at Mexican grocery stores or order a can of it online.

Your taste buds won't be the only part of your body that thanks you.

Frontera Grill 445 North Clark Street Chicago IL 60654 312-661-1434 Cafe Atlantico 405 8th St. NW Washington DC 20004 202-393-0812

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