Agriculture

A Hideous Fungus, A Nutritious Snack

A Hideous Fungus, A Nutritious Snack

An unsightly fungal disease called corn smut strikes fear in the hearts of American and Canadian farmers. When it appears as fleshy, grayish galls on cobs, it can cause, in some cases, a 20 percent loss of marketable crop. Yet, in Mexico, corn smut is a time-tested delicacy, known as huitlacoche (pronounced wheat-la-ko-chay). Ancient petroglyphs depict infected ears of corn, for instance, and indigenous subsistence farmers in Mexico and Central America ate the smut because they couldn’t afford to let a crop rot.

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