Tootsie1At the Market Square Farmer’s Market Saturday, the guys from Huff Family Farm in Blount County brought Daniel and I a half dozen ears of white corn infected with corn smut – Ustilago maydis. We had been looking for some so Daniel, Tootsie Truck,  could show me the authentic Mexican way to prepare it. The Spanish word for the corn smut is cuitlacohce (wheat-la-co-chay) or huitlacoche. By the way, this is a new logo/paint job for the Tootsie. Pretty cool Rebecca and Daniel. You can find them on Facebook


smut1Apparently, there is something about pairing a melting cheese with the cuitlacoche that is wonderful enough it to be called the “Mexican truffle” in the old country. Today, however, Daniel sautéed the tumors of corn smut and served hem on a smooth cheese grits. Great combo!! I love it.

When smut tumors burst (like in the second picture) to release teliospores, edibility is over.

Here are two great resources if you are interested in learning more. The American Phytopathology Society has an excellent web page on Ustilago maydis describing its biology. If the language is too esoteric at times, don’t despair, scroll to the end and you’ll get some vernacular conversation about the edibility.

Tradd Cotter at Mushroom Mountain in South Carolina has been working a process to inoculate your own corn and grow this great fungus for eating. For corn farmers it can be devastating to find in your field, but a backyard patch might be acceptable. Here is a quote from NPR.:
“At Mushroom Mountain farm in Easley, S.C., mycologist Tradd Cotter has a 42,000-square-foot mushroom production facility. He is now growing huitlacoche on several varieties of corn, including Brock’s favored White Bolita. “Years ago I found one black, dry kernel of corn in an old warehouse at Clemson University, ground it up and injected a solution into every ear of Silver Queen heirloom corn, a variety susceptible to the fungus, growing at my house,” he says. “Within two weeks, we had our huitlacoche and we ate it all.”

Cotter plans to produce and stock a pure liquid inoculum that farmers can buy —just as beer brewers buy yeast. He notes that huitlacoche must be picked when firm but spongy, sort of like a foamy popcorn, before it starts to degrade and turn sooty black. If harvested too late, it’s not only far less tasty, but can loft clouds of black fungal spores into the air, which might infect the entire crop, as well as neighboring cornfields.”

Lastly, if you just want to rty some, you can buy cans on-line. Both Goya and Herdez market this great fungus.




Thanks & Rain

First of all, Thank You to all my fungal friends that sponsored our Celebrity Dancing for the Free Medical Clinic of Oak Ridge (Tenn). Ellen and I raised $2,700 and the six couples together raised over $13,000. As Bear Stephenson, the auctioneer says, “we know who you are and we know where you live”. I say “In my heart”.

So, what about the rain? We’ve had some strong storms that filled the rain gauge but don’t soak the ground. This morning was several hours of soaking rain, so I guess the fall mushroom season is about to begin after a five week drought. Went out today after the rain and the ground looks wet but it will take the fungi a few days to realize that. The First Responders were the small polypores that populate the surface of logs. Here are a couple of beauties.

stereumStereum & Turkey tailsturkey





clavThis is Calocera cornea. It’s actually a jelly fungus





daucipesI wasn’t seeing any terrestrial fungi, but then this Amanita daucipes appeared. I thought it worth posting because the picture illustrates the importance of what’s underground when collecting Amanita. Note the baby under your right side of the cap and the turnip-foot of the one I dug. I always carry my digger. Also note how the rain pushed the annulus (ring) down to the ground.


bondLastly, here are two Berkeley polypore ‘start ups’ from the base of the same tree where I had already harvested four small ones over two occasions. It appears, in this one case, harvesting early keeps it going, Ya Think? They are best to eat when young and fresh so I grabbed them.



It’s been a strange August. There are a whole raft of mushrooms that have appeared here in August every year that I haven’t seen at all this year .Now, I hear that the Asheville side of the mountains are seeing lots of fungi. Also, people are coming by my booth at the Farmers Market with pictures of great fungi for me to see that they found at higher elevations. Oh well, every year it seems like there is a flush of something around here, not to be seen again in great numbers. Last year it was black trumpets. I’m still waiting for this year’s flush. Wonder what it will be. Maybe it was the Chicken of the Woods in early July, but I hope not. Who knows, could it be Hens down the road???







Mushroom Stock

IMG_0729Yes, this is the Berkeley Polypore that was pictured in my last post. In Mushrooms of West Virginia, Roody rated it as “edible when young, later the flesh becomes bitter and fibrous”. So, what do you do with a 6 1/2 pounder? I gave mine to Rebecca and Daniel who operate the Tootsie Truck – best food truck in town. Always exploring and stretching. She called me yesterday and raved over the fabulous stock they created with it, and they will use it with a “noodle cup” Saturday at the Knoxville Market Square Farmers Market. I plan to get my sample cup. If you want to experience what this very large and often ignored (by foodies) mushroom can do, come on down Saturday. While you’re there, stop by my booth #139 and tell me what you think.

Rebecca also made a donation to the Free Medical Clinic of Oak Ridge in our name (the Celebrity Dance Contest) without me asking. Thank you Tootsie Truck!!

Also, thanks to my readers who have donated. You’ll get one of my “thank you” mushroom cards after the contest is over and I have all the addresses. I think we are leading with over $1,500 !!!! One more week.