Mold – What is it good for?

Feb 7, 2019

Typically our blog posts focus on the dark side of mold.  How mold is hazardous, problematic, and a general headache when it is found inside a home or building.  While all of those posts are very informative, it is also worth mentioning the beneficial qualities of mold.  This post will shed some light on mold’s critical role in the environment and its impact on the food industry.  

Mold Environmental & Health Impacts

All living organisms on this planet die at some point, yet we don’t see the remains of deceased organisms littering the ground.  This is mainly because of decomposition. A key player in decomposition is fungi. Mold is a fungus that is saprobic, meaning it feeds on decaying organic materials.  By nature, mold’s intended purpose is to break down organic matter; without mold the circle of life would not be complete.

There is even a type of mushroom known as the Oyster mushroom that can help clean up after oil spills [note]permachulturenews.org/2016/02/11/fungi/[/note].  Keep in mind that mushrooms and mold are both fungi. The fibrous mycelia network of the Oyster mushroom can filter harmful components in soil and water such as pesticides and E. coli [note]permachulturenews.org/2016/02/11/fungi/[/note].  This unique property of the Oyster mushroom can even break down oil and petroleum [note]permachulturenews.org/2016/02/11/fungi/[/note].

In terms of future use of the beneficial qualities of mold, scientists are currently researching methods for using mold to create sustainable sources of fuel.  This can be done by using molds to degrade cellulose into sugars which can be converted into ethanol [note]permachulturenews.org/2016/02/11/fungi/[/note].

Say Cheese & Other Foods

http://science.jrank.org/pages/4396/Mold.html”>Mold – Beneficial molds historyThe most obvious impact mold has is on cheese production.  Moldy cheeses such as blue cheese and Roquefort use Penicillium roqueforti and Brie and Camembert use Penicillium camemberti to obtain their characteristic flavors [note]fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/a87cdc2c-6ddd-49f0-bd1f-393086742e68/Molds_on_Food.pdf?MOD=AJPERES[/note].  In addition to cheeses, Asian countries have used a mold type called Aspergillus flavus to make soy sauce [note]fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/a87cdc2c-6ddd-49f0-bd1f-393086742e68/Molds_on_Food.pdf?MOD=AJPERES[/note].  Rhizopus is another type of mold that is widely used in the brewing industry because it metabolizes starch and produces glucose which is used in the fermentation process [note]http://science.jrank.org/pages/4396/Mold.html”>Mold – Beneficial molds history[/note].  Vegans and vegetarians are likely familiar with a food product called tempeh. Tempeh is a cake-like food product similar to tofu that originated in Indonesia [note]http://science.jrank.org/pages/4396/Mold.html”>Mold – Beneficial molds history[/note]. To make tempeh soybeans are fermented in water and fungi.  This process allows the Rhizopus oligosporus mold to permeate the soybeans and bind them together creating a high protein food product.

Conclusion

Certainly, you do not want your home to have a leak or a mold problem.  It is expensive to fix, time-consuming, and a general pain. However, it’s important to keep in mind that mold is a natural and essential part of the environment.  It breaks down organic matter, makes delicious food to eat, and can be used to make clothes, building materials, and even furniture.  Problems with mold usually occur when mold is found in an area where it shouldn’t be.  To learn more about acceptable mold levels inside of a home please read our past blog post “Can a Home Be Mold Free?”.  If you are concerned about mold in your home, Indoor Science can perform an inspection in your home or business.

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