Although mold on food is usually something to be wary of, there are many cases where it’s perfectly safe to eat the food anyways.
Quick facts about safe moldy food
Safe – hard foods, foods where mold does the preserving
Unsafe – mold on soft & cooked foods
Read also our other sections in this series:
Hard foods are generally safer
For hard vegetables like:
and hard, cured meat such as
- hard salami – the typical French “Saucisson” and Spanish “Chorizo“
- dry-cured country hams
it’s possible to cut the moldy portion of the food off.
- Cut at least one inch (2.5 cm) off around the moldy part.
- Avoid touching the knife in the infected part, otherwise you’ll contaminate other parts as well.
- This is also applicable to cheese only when mold is not part of how it is manufactured.
Aren’t there any good molds?
You might not think so, but some molds are actually very useful!
Molds to preserve food
Some types like Penicillium are desirable. They help preserve milk so that it may keep for a very long time, quite the opposite of rotting, really.
- Penicillium is used in the production of tasty cheese like Gorgonzola, Brie, blue cheese and Camembert.
- Inside the cheese, conditions are such that this mold doesn’t produce any mycotoxins. It is perfectly safe to eat!
- Penicillium is actually the family of molds from which Penicillin medicine was derived.
However, some desirable cheese molds can still spoil other products though.
- Penicillium roqueforti is desirable in blue cheese, for example, but can spoil grated cheese like Emmental.
Pickled pink: vinegar
Familiar with that bright pink ginger presented alongside sushi rolls? That ginger is pickled with vinegar – which comes from mold!
Koji molds (including Aspergillus oryzae) are used in the Far east:
- in the fermentation of vinegar
- beverages such as kombucha
- and soybeans in the production of soy sauce
We’ve just mentioned Penicillium, which has a fascinating history from discovery to mass production of bactericidal penicillin.
- Trivia – one of the first molds to be successfully bred to produce penicillin was found on a cantaloupe on an Illinois market!
- Other medicines that are derived from molds include Lovostatin which is made with Aspergillus terreus mold.
Newer strains of molds are being discovered that may hold the key to newer antibacterial agents. It’s a fascinating field of study!
More and more mushrooms (mold’s “big siblings”) are also found to contain many medicinal compounds.
- Oyster mushrooms are very rich in many such useful compounds.
- Grow your own oyster mushrooms on coffee grounds!
Used coffee is a great medium for growing mold: it’s rich in nitrogen, retains moisture, and the dark color attracts and keeps warmth.