Kills the baking of vegetables
Blown by the wind
What we see as typical colored mold lawns are the spore carriers. Under the microscope they often resemble a flower, with a stem and blossom. Mold spores are everywhere, even in our fridge. Microscopic in size, a slight breeze is enough to spread them.
This is how the spores sink on our food. An optimal place: enough nutrients and moisture to grow. The spores germinate. Invisible to us, fine threads (hyphae) now run through the food. These are not roots, this is the actual fungus.
Over time, these threads form a network-like structure called mycelium. When the mycelium reaches the limit with the air, it can be seen for the first time with the naked eye as a white-yellowish film.
Moldy foods don't just look gross. Since the mushrooms excrete toxins (mycotoxins), they can also make you sick and even kill. It wasn't until 1960 that science discovered how dangerous these poisons are for humans and animals.
After around 120,000 turkeys, ducks and quails mysteriously died in England, the cause was feverishly searched for. All poultry farms affected had used the same feed. Samples showed a high level of mold exposure.
As a result, the researchers found a dangerous poison in the feed that came from the mushrooms. It is now known that more than 250 types of mold can produce around 300 mycotoxins. A danger to our health: They cause cancer, damage organs and even our genetic make-up.
A difficult opponent
Mushroom toxins are extremely resistant, even to heat and cold. In order to protect food from them, mold infestation must therefore be prevented.
The industry has developed various methods for this. The best known are cooling and pasteurization, a special heat treatment. Most mushrooms only grow optimally between zero and 40 degrees Celsius.
Another successful concept is to remove the vital water from the mold. Concentrates such as tomato paste therefore have a better shelf life.
Research is constantly looking for new ways to combat mold. Scientists at the Technical University of Berlin have discovered a substance against some fungi. It is amazing that the substance found itself came from a mold. In nature, it keeps food competitors away.
The Max Rubner Institute in Karlsruhe is taking a different approach. The scientists found out that blue light inhibits the growth of some types of mold. Blue light in our fridges? Only the future will tell, because there is still a lot of research going on.
Mold can affect all foods. But what do you do with the mold on bread, for example? Cut away generously or throw away completely?
The microbiologists agree: Moldy food belongs in the garbage. Because the visible mold lawn is only the tip of the iceberg. The mycelium of the fungus has already penetrated all of the food.
Nevertheless, there is a persistent misconception that all you have to do is remove the mold from jam. It is true that sugar removes water from most mushrooms and thus inhibits or prevents their growth. But there are also species that cannot be pushed back by it. Therefore: also the entire jam in the trash.
Mold on cheese and sausage is not always undesirable. Rather, it can be a delicacy, because only mold gives some products their spicy taste. Well-known examples are Camembert, Brie and Roquefort cheese.
The powdery topping on salami and other types of meat is also mold. The mushroom cultures used do not form any poisons. They even prevent undesired mold growth by asserting themselves against other types of fungus.
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