Ustilago maydis

Robert Brambl brambl at
Tue Aug 6 14:43:22 EST 1996

Hello, All:

We usually work with Neurospora in our laboratory, but this summer we also  
have a little project that involves some strains of maize that have  
colorless pollen and may (or may not) prove to have some interesting  
patterns of gene expression in the germinating pollen.

The experimentally important maize strains that we have in the field  
unfortunately are heavily infected (naturally) with Ustilago, to the point  
that many of the individual plants cannot be carried through a productive  

It occurs to us that we could do something useful with this smutted corn:   
convert it to quesadillas de huitlacoche.  

My question of this group concerns when to harvest the smut.  At this  
point, it exists mainly as small but thick, white, finger-long masses on  
the lower stalks. When cut open, there are a few streaks of black  
marbling, but little else.  What is the optimum time to collect and  
consume these masses?  I assume that one does not wait for the gall to  
develop, but I may be wrong. Any suggestions about care and handling?  
Flora Banuett published a review article on U. maydis [Trends in Genetics:  
8(5)174.1992] that also contains an engaging recipe for these quesadillas.  
Are there additional recipes that we should know about?   We have staged  
plantings of these maize genotypes, so we will have multiple opportunities  
to sample the smut, and we have _lots_of sick maize.  

Thanks for your suggestions.


Robert Brambl
University of Minnesota

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