I had a fantastic vacation in Denver last week, and while I was there I followed through on my vow to keep trying new things. One of those things? Trying huitlacoche (pronounced weet-la-co-chee), or corn smut, for the first time.
Huitlacoche is a fungus that attacks corn crops and has been a delicacy since the Aztecs and Mayans, who would add it to tamales and stews. Today you can sometimes find it on the menu at Mexican restaurants, usually slathered in a quesadilla. It might look unappetizing, but when it’s cooked it tastes earthy and mild, sort of like a creamy mushroom. And—best of all—it’s really good for you. (And your skin!) Here’s how:
Lysine. Huitlacoche pumps corn full of this essential amino acid. Necessary for human health, your body can’t produce lysine, which means you have to get it from your diet (by eating something like corn smut). According to University of Maryland Medical Center, lysine appears to help your body absorb calcium, and helps in the formation of collagen.
Beta glucans. Corn smut is also packed with beta glucans, which, according to WebMD, are the sugars found in the cell walls of many bacteria, fungi, yeasts, algae, lichens, and plants like oats and barley. Beta glucans can be distilled into prescription medicines and used to treat high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, and more, as well as helping to boost immune systems in people with chronic fatigue syndrome or who have had radiation or chemotherapy. Plus, beta glucans are proven to be a good topical treatment for dermatitis, eczema, wrinkles, burns, and more.
(Image via International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center)