Corn Smut—It Looks Gross, But You Can Eat It

This corn fungal disease is actually a delicacy in Mexican culture—though if you find it in your garden, you'll never get rid of it.

Corn smut kind of looks like a corn-popping session gone horribly horribly wrong. The big, white fungal growth appears on the above-ground portions of the corn plant, and typically you’ll find them on the cob itself. While you may be horrified if you found this and had no idea what it is, it’s not the end of the world if you find it on your corn. It’s not poisonous, and some cultures even consider it a delicacy.

That being said, if it’s perfectly kerneled cobs that you’re after, taking steps to avoid it in your garden is a must. Being a fungus and all, whose spores know no limits in terms of their spread, once it appears, getting rid of it is difficult. Here are two instances that facilitate corn smut growth and what you can do about it.

Wet Dry Wet

A wet spring followed by a dry summer followed by more moisture creates the perfect breeding conditions for corn smut. This can be remedied fairly easily by setting up an irrigation system in your corn patch and watering on a consistent schedule.

Nitrogen Heavy Soil

Soil high in nitrogen will also encourage corn smut. Corn actually requires heavy amounts of nitrogen to grow, so to avoid depleting your soil of other balancing nutrients, avoid planting corn in the same bed twice.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to avoiding corn smut. But then again, if you spot the fungus on your corn, take it to the kitchen immediately and start experimenting with a new dinner appetizer.


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