Turning a disease into a delicacy

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 23rd August 2011

For most farmers, walking out into a field of crops to discover that their harvest has been infected by disease is a nightmare. For some corn farmers in Mexico though, it is a dream come true.

A fungal disease, huitlacoche, that infects maize, has been dubbed the ‘Mexican Corn Truffle’. Also known as ‘corn smut’, it has become a delicacy eaten as a filling in quesadillas and other tortilla-based foods.

Despite the disease feeding off the corn plant and rendering it inedible, as well as decreasing the yield, the fungus itself has been bringing in more profit for some Mexican farmers than the money that would have been made from the corn had it not been infected.

With its new delicacy becoming increasingly popular in Mexico’s leading restaurants, a fresh demand for huitlacoche means corn farmers will be pleased to see the disease recur in their crops this year.