Mouldy old dough

I loved that song as a kid.

Anyway, this isn’t about singing. It’s about fungi. A group that includes both yeast and moulds.

Basically, yeast grow as single cells and you make bread and booze with them. Moulds grow in thread-like bundles called ‘mycelia’ and you make blue cheese with them. The distinction isn’t absolute, sometimes yeast can grow like mould and mould can grow like yeast.

There are very few infective yeasts. Candida albicans is one. If you’re one of those trendies who have named your daughter ‘Candida’ she’s not going to see a lot of action from anyone educated.

Ringworm, athletes’s foot and a few other fungi will infect you too but mostly fungi like to grow around 20degC. Inside the body is too warm for them. There are exceptions, the anaerobic fungi that grow in ruminant animals… but I’m drifting into lecturer mode and they don’t matter here.

No, if a mould is going to get you it’ll mostly be Farmer’s Lung or poisoning. Farmer’s Lung is a massive inhalation of fungal spores. Aspergillus gets the blame usually because it grows on hay. Really though, it doesn’t matter which one too much, it’s the mass that matters. Turn the hay, shift bales around, farmers do this in immense quantities and if it’s mouldy at all then disturbing it will throw a huge amount of spores into the air. Breathe them in and the irritation causes fluid buildup and before you know it, your doctor insists you must be a smoker even if you’ve never heard of tobacco.

Poisoning, well, picking your own mushrooms can do that. Destroying Angel is an innocent looking mushroom but very very deadly. Unless you know exactly what you are doing, get your mushrooms at the supermarket. Those are grown by mushroom growers who know what they are doing. Amateur mycologists are rare because most of them are dead now.

Shaggy Inkcap is a nice one. Get it before it turns to ink and fry it lightly. I know where a patch grows. But don’t have alcohol with it – it reacts very badly with alcohol. You won’t die but you might wish you had  😉

So, who just did a double take? Who thought I changed subjects between mould and mushrooms? I didn’t. Mushrooms, toadstools, they are all moulds.

More accurately they are the fruiting bodies of moulds. The spore producing parts. The seed pods, if you like. The frilly bit under the mushroom is where the spores are formed and released. Millions of them. Button mushrooms are the artichokes of the microbial world. The unopened flower.

Quorn is made of mould. Stilton is nothing without its surface mould and neither is Brie nor Camembert. The blue lines in many cheeses are a live mould. I like to keep Danish Blue until it’s turned very blue indeed. In fact, when the other cheeses start to turn blue, that one is ready.

I know, there is a terror of mould these days. The black stuff growing on your damp walls is nasty. Kill it immediately. And yet other moulds are good to eat. The cheese moulds are no different to eating mushrooms. It’s all mould.

It’s all killed in your stomach, you know. It’s hot and acidic in there.

If your fridge has no detectable levels of mushroom spores I can conclude that you never eat mushrooms. The same goes for spores of the white moulds around Brie or Camembert or the blue moulds through other tasty cheeses. They are all producing spores all the time.

You know what? It doesn’t matter. In a reasonably clean fridge the mould are the Biblical seeds that fell on stony ground. They can’t grow in there. It’s too cold and there’s no food.

And you are supposed to clean the fridge once in a while…

I’m not going into the whole range of different spore formations, it’s tempting but I’m not a lecturer any more. The basis is, mould spores are everywhere all the time. Always have been. Don’t worry about it.

Food that goes mouldy had those spores on it from the start. When you bought it or grew it, the spores were on it. If it’s mouldy it means only one thing. You kept it too long. Bin it.

As long as you’re not a total idiot, moulds are not scary. The red one with white spots, Amanita, is one to avoid. Yes you can get high on a small dose, but get the dose wrong and you get so high that Saint Peter says the last hello. As I said, if you don’t know what you’re doing leave them alone and stick to shop ones.

I seem to be alternating between terrifying and harmless. Well, it’s just common sense. Would you eat of the fruit of a tree you don’t know? Especially one you’ve been told is a bad idea to eat from?

Actually the Bible starts with the first humans doing just that. Might not be just a story. Could be a description of human nature.

‘Don’t do that, it’ll kill you’

‘Oh you think so? Watch this’.

Yeah… Not much has changed.

CStM told me about the last general strike in Denmark. People were stocking up on things in case they ran out and one of the things was yeast. Bread making yeast. In Denmark it’s sold as live active yeast, not the dry spores we get in the UK, so it has a very limited shelf life. Buying loads of it is silly. As she said, everyone could have gone for a sourdough approach starting with one pack. Nobody thinks of that unless they’ve studied at least a bit of microbiology and/or breadmaking.

Fungi make your bread and your beer and wine and whisky. They give you all those fancy and plain mushrooms and exotic cheeses. And yet you are terrified of them. I suppose it’s not a surprise. You’re all scared of bacteria and yet enjoy yogurt and salami and sauerkraut…

The modern obsession with ‘clean’ is killing you. You think you’re being healthy. No. You’re becoming weak.

The Daily Scare tells us that there are mould spores all over the place and we should be terrified. Sigh. If there weren’t spores all over the place we’d be on a different planet. A dead one.

I mean, look at it. They want us scared that a mould might grow in our carpet – a mould that is either only dangerous to grass or that is actually edible. Your carpet has to be continuously damp to get any growth at all and only then, if it’s a mould that can grow on carpet

So, a wool or cotton degrading mould then. It has to be able to eat the food it’s growing on. Moulds do tend to grow on dead organic matter so wool or cotton would do. Polyester carpet? Don’t spill any food on it…

The Mail have taken a basic-interest science study and turned it into a scare story.

I think tomorrow I’ll maybe get shares in the company that sells spray bleach.

Antibiotic shares? Nah, the idiots will eventually find out where they came from…

 

 

 

Oh I almost forgot…

 

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15 thoughts on “Mouldy old dough

  1. That was the first biology lesson I actually *enjoyed* reading. Thanks Leggy.

    Enlivened by the memorable “Amateur mycologists are rare because most of them are dead now.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Amateur mycologists are rare because most of them are dead now.”

    But there are quite a few semi-professional survivors. In season to be found scavenging around the New Forest, which is apparently a prime location for various edible species. Mouldy place, the New Forest.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don’t most people who hand-make their own bread usually take a chunk out of the dough and save it for use in the next batch? I seem to recall my relatives doing this. It kept the yeast(s) growing and active so you didn’t have to keep buying more and more yeast. Plus it kept the bread taste more consistent over a period of time. Whenever the yeast(s) seemed to reach a point where they were no longer multiplying…then came a batch of unleavened bread with the last remaining bit. Unleavened bread was always my favorite. Not that I didn’t love them all. But then again…I’m a bread lover.

    Weird for a guy who is allergic to virtually everything in bread eh?

    Anyway…great article. Much better than your usual bullshit. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. O/T

    Oh dear, at long last some have woken up to the fact that the

    “Daily Mail’s reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism, and flat-out fabrication.”

    Is sufficient cause for Wikipedia to quit using them as a source.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/wikipedia-editors-ban-daily-mail-source-citation-unreliable-mail-online-a7570856.html

    At some stage they may broaden their horizons and go for it with The Sun and The Record.

    Still, I look forward to this here blog host doing another scarification of said organs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Black mould is very dangerous. It can be many times worse than the visible stuff indicates. It can cause GAD. (Don’t have a dose of that). Some types are neurotoxic.
    It can cause “proper” insomnia—not just “I can’t get to sleep at night” but your brain actively preventing sleep by night terrors and hallucinations,
    Going for days and nights scared to close your eyes because of the appalling “film clips” that play on the inside of your eyelids is not pleasant. Nor are panic attacks and extreme emotionalism and weepiness for the tiniest of reasons. Etc.
    Getting infected as a result of exposure is not inevitable and people who do get it almost always recover. But I suspect they never forget it. Don’t ask how I know all this, but Googling “black mould and human health” is very informative and alarming.

    Like

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