Why corn smut could be good for you

Health benefits key as researchers and food producers explore new crops

By Janet Davison, CBC News

At first glance, there is nothing appetizing about huitlacoche, a corn fungus that North American farmers tend to view as a disease.

Ugly and grey, the engorged kernels look like a genetic mistake, and do nothing to tempt a diner.

Huitlacoche

Huitlacoche is corn infected with corn smut. (Submitted by Barry Saville)

But overcome their appearance and savour their mushroomy flavour and extra protein — as Mexicans have for hundreds of years — and maybe those kernels full of of corn smut are the genesis of a new delicacy for Canadian food producers and health-conscious consumers.

Barry Saville is working on that hypothesis, and the chair of the forensic science program at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., now finds himself at the forefront as Canadian researchers and agricultural producers looking for new products.

“We think we could probably grow [huitlacoche] out as a niche market where you’re looking at farmers’ markets initially and then build it up,” he says.

Canadian producers looking to tap fresh markets now have all sorts of unlikely new crops in the mix — ranging from farm-grown shrimp tohaskaps, a berry of Russian and Japanese origin that thrives in colder climes.

Read more here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/why-corn-smut-could-be-good-for-you-1.2888681