From A Long Line Of Grubby-Fisted Gardeners At The Ranch Pen


Old seed catalog via the internet somewhere

Right now, the temperature is 22*, but the wind has backed off somewhat from earlier today–now the gusts are only 35 mph. In spite of that happy development, it’s still fairly sharp outside. So, we here at the Ranch Pen are ready for spring.

A lot of us are begotten from a long line of grubby-fisted farmers and gardeners. Every January, we start getting an itch we can’t scratch yet and our seed catalogs just add to the torture. I’ve been sifting through the pages of mine with visions of splendor, having almost completely forgotten I was canning tomatoes in November last year because my stupid tomato plants refused to produce on cue. (Also, I must persistently push away thoughts of Nellie, our border collie–and anti-gardener–with her black thumbs claws busily digging up all my stuff.)

Like millions and billions of other people, one of the vegetables I like to dream over most is sweet corn. In a former life, I grew bushels and bushels of perfect ears in my Colorado garden each summer.

For years after we moved to southwest Oklahoma, I tried to grow sweet corn without success. Between the scorching summer winds blowing the pollen away so the cobs have no kernels, the racoons eating what few ears are out there, bugs of all types, and the corn smut (below),I finally gave up.


So, imagine my surprise to find that the corn smut is not a sign of failure as I had always thought! I was sittin’ on a virtual goldmine all those years and didn’t know it until yesterday when I was reading a farm publication and learned people eat that stuff.

In Mexico, corn smut is called huitlacoche (or cuitlacoche) and is considered a delicacy. The fungus supposedly has a mild, earthy flavor, is highly nutritious and can fetch $20-$30/pound. Corn smut is common in the soil and springs to life in hot and dry, or cool and wet conditions.

Since we’ll have the hot and dry conditions for sure, what could go wrong in a quest to grow corn smut by the acre? By summers’ end, I imagine we’ll be rich as thieves and have enough extra huitlacoche for me to whomp Gramps and me up the recipe below that I found somewhere on the internet. (It actually sounds pretty good.)


Cuitlacoche with Corn and Zucchini

2 tablespoons of safflower, peanut or olive oil
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
½ medium onion finely chopped
2 ears of corn – shucked
1 ½ pounds of maize mushrooms (the huitlacoche)
10 leaves of fresh sage lightly chopped
2 chile poblanos – roasted, seeded and peeled
4 small zucchinis thinly sliced

Saute the garlic and onion until transparent. Add the corn and zucchini until slightly soft. Add the Maize Mushroom and fresh sage until mixture is well blended and liquid is evaporated. Add salt to taste. Garnish with Chile poblano. This recipe can be used as a wonderful filling for an egg dish.


*** A late breaking development: Gramps has just informed me he won’t eat corn smut no matter what it’s called. Not surprising since he won’t even eat any of those black spots on his corn, but nibbles around them dainty as a mouse lest his tooth touch something strange. (That is another one of the endless differences between men  most men  a lot of men  some men and mothers. Mothers just sigh and eat all the black spots refused by the hubby and kids. What else would she eat? But that is another topic. Fodder for many more posts…)

Until next time, God bless all y’all while you dream big, enjoy some huitlacoche, and listen to Matt Maher and his friends having way too much fun singing  All the People Said Amen.


*These artists don’t necessarily endorse the blog, I just like ’em.

4 thoughts on “From A Long Line Of Grubby-Fisted Gardeners At The Ranch Pen

  1. Oh, I feel right at home here! Oddly enough, I just finished writing about my experiences trying to grow corn. The edible type, not the worth-something type.
    P.S. Thank you for visiting! It’s always so nice to meet someone new!

    • How funny we both had corn on the brain. I enjoy the stories on your blog. And I’m tickled to death to know you are acquainted with my family in Canada (who I don’t even know anymore). I remember Great Aunt Francis Swanson coming to where I was raised in Colorado to visit my grandpa, but I don’t know that I ever met any of her offspring. It’s a small, small world. Thank you SO much for visiting 🙂

  2. My goodness! I learned something today! All those times I peeled back the shucks and had a feeling of deep disgust, I was completely ignorant! I’m kinda with Gramps on this one though. Maybe the many unlearned encounters with corn smut can’t be overcame. Maize mushrooms… hmmm…yes, I just scrolled up and looked at the picture again. Not gonna happen.

    • I know. Who’d a thunk it? I’m planning to try some next time I get a horrid purplish growth on the end of an ear. Corn ear. Not mine.
      I remember one summer conditions were just right and almost every ear was like that. (And Gramps will be eating it, too, he just won’t know. Bwa ha ha)

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