Prick up your ear, Los Angeles. Huitlacoche is at the farmer’s market

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Chefs and home cooks are circling the stand of McGrath Family Farms, hoping to nab a few ears of corn with huitlacoche, a corn fungus considered a delicacy for those in the know. Photo by Gillian Ferguson.

Huitlacoche has long been considered a delicacy in Mexico, but in the U.S., it goes by the unfortunate name of corn smut, or corn fungus. When it showed up last week at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, chefs and home cooks gathered around the McGrath Family Farmers’ stand to marvel at the rarity.

“In my farming career, it was the most talked about item we’ve ever had here at McGrath,” says farmer Mike Roberts. Chefs were calling and texting him all week trying to get their hands on a few ears.

Unlike canned huitlacoche, the fresh fungus is “very dense, mushroom-y and fragrant,” says Executive Chef Brad Long of Tallula’s. This weekend, he plans to cook it slowly with garlic and onions, and serve it alongside grilled spiny lobster and the restaurant’s signature blue corn tortillas, which made it into the Fuerte Four of the Great Tortilla Tournament this year.

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Evan Kleiman