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, 35 (3), 191-229

Huitlacoche (Ustilago Maydis) as a Food Source--Biology, Composition, and Production


Huitlacoche (Ustilago Maydis) as a Food Source--Biology, Composition, and Production

M E Valverde et al. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.


Huitlacoche is the ethnic name applied to the young fruiting bodies (galls) of the fungus Ustilago maydis, which causes common smut of maize (Zea mays L). Biologists and agronomists have historically used U. maydis as a model to study a wide array of genetic, physiological, ecological, and phytopathological phenomena. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, huitlacoche has been used traditionally as human food, being highly regarded as an interesting dish or condiment. The food potential of huitlacoche is described here in terms of its chemical composition, which includes carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, essential amino acids (especially lysine) and fatty acids (linoleate) are present in huitlacoche in considerable levels, adding to its nutritional attributes. The feasibility of growing U. maydis in submerged agitated culture has yielded a variety of fermentation products, including essential amino acids, proteins, vitamins, and flavorings, among others. Recent interest in developing huitlacoche as a cash crop has come from increasing acceptance by the North American public, who prize it as a new delicacy. However, research efforts are still needed to determine the biological factors involved in the establishment of U. maydis as a pathogen on the maize plant. This review deals with the role of huitlacoche as a food source, implicating the biological components that will determine the development of technologies for large scale production.

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