These Images Of Smutty Corn Have Twitter In An Uproar

Twitter is in an uproar about smut — corn smut, that is. Many were surprised to discover that corn smut is a real thing. It's only dirty in the fungi way, and it's a delicacy you might never have heard about.

Let's go back to the beginning. Nigella Lawson recently retweeted a photo about the truffle of the corn world, an informative post on a fungus more commonly referred to as "corn smut." Lawson wrote, "This is fascinating! Thank you for bringing it to my attention @marina_wert" (via Twitter).

The original tweet promoted a widely shared picture and described the product, "Corn truffles. Just learned that if the heat and humidity are high enough, corn can get infected by a fungus that causes the kernels to expand and become a delicacy known as Corn smut. Cooked they taste like a cross between mushrooms, fresh corn and black truffles. This is real."

And real it is. Corn smut, or corn truffles, is caused by a fungus that grows on corn, called Ustilago maydis (via NPR). The product of this fungus, called huitlacoche, has long been a delicacy for Native American Hopi and Zuni tribes, and even dates back to the Aztecs (via Food Republic).

Corn smut, corn truffles

The growing fungus truly doesn't look very appetizing. As Twitter reader Dr. Georgina Porter points out, "I wouldn't eat those if I was offered hard cash, sorry." Reader Woodrow simply points out, "Corn smut the mind boggles." And while things may look a bit strange at first glance, remember that American dishes we take for granted, like cream of soup casseroles, can appear very strange to other cultures, yet yield a surprising deliciousness.

Huitlachoche is best used fresh and is stored in the refrigerator like other mushrooms, but with its short shelf life you are more likely to find it jarred, canned, or frozen at your local Mexican food store. Chef Joe Quintana of the Rosa Mexicana chain told Food Republic, "Most typically we sautée and incorporate huitlacoche into sauces or dishes for its earthy flavor." Quintana added, "It can be puréed with cream to make a delicious sauce for steak, and we have even made huitlacoche flan for more of a savory twist on dessert." Be warned: This gray fungus tends to turn black with heat — and that's really okay.

As for the taste, Chef Sean Brock of Charleston describes to NPR, "It's insanely delicious and luxurious, like black truffles." Catch the Twitter buzz on this truffle of corn — or try it yourself.