The Musty Truth: Does Mold Have a Taste?

For the vast majority of people, seeing a blue, green, and white film in the middle of a sandwich and smelling the not-so-charming scent of the mold is enough to completely kill the appetite. However, for the gut-strong minority, it is just a minor nuisance that needs to be taken care of before continuing with the meal.

The two sides tend to show equal levels of bewilderment and lack of understanding for the behavior of the other, with no improvement in sight. Aside from the obvious health concerns, the former side also cites the funky taste and smell of mold as being enough to make them gag. On the other hand, the latter group often reports the lack of any smell or taste.

What’s the truth, then, and who is right? Does mold have a taste? Read on for the answer and a closer look at one of the most unwelcome guests in dining rooms worldwide.

What Is Mold?

Mold is, in a nutshell, a type of fungus. It differs from yeasts in that it grows in the form of hyphae, multicellular filaments, whereas yeasts can grow in single-cell form. When multiple hyphae come together, they form what’s known as mycelium. Mycelium is considered a single organism.

Molds generally have colorless hyphae that make mycelium look like fluffy white threads on the surface. The dusty appearance of mold stems from the overproduction of conidia (asexual reproductive spores). The conidia form as a result of differentiation on each hypha’s end. The species of the mold is determined by the shape of conidia and the way they form.

There are many types and species of mold. Some are beneficial to human health, such as penicillin. The vast majority are neither dangerous nor beneficial, with a very small minority being dangerous to human health. In this article, we will focus on mold that grows on food.

Does Mold Have a Taste?

A short answer to the question “does mold have a taste” is yes. Most commonly, mold has an earthy taste, accompanied by a musty smell. While many people find them more or less unbearable, others are okay with them.

Although the mold that commonly develops on food is generally regarded as unwanted and bad for health, there are special types that are used in food production to facilitate the process of fermentation. Aside from fermentation, mold also modifies the taste of food. In fact, some exclusive delicacies, such as blue cheese, partly owe their characteristic taste to mold.

Molds and Food Production

Aside from blue cheese, many other types of food and some alcoholic beverages rely on the help of molds. Koji molds are among the most popular molds in food production, having a wide and varied application.

Koji molds – a group of Aspergillus molds – play a large role in the production of soy sauce and soybean paste. They are also used in the production of shochu, sake, and other spirits native to East Asia. Koji molds are used for saccharification, a process of breaking down the starch in barley and rice.

Staying in Asia, Monascus purpureus is a type of mold that gives red yeast rice its characteristic color and taste. Red yeast rice is a staple in many Asian diets and is also used in the Chinese traditional medicine. The experts at Mayo Clinic claim that red yeast rice, when combined with healthy lifestyle, can be very effective at reducing the “bad” cholesterol“.

Geotrichum candidum is commonly used in cheese production, while Penicillinum is used in the production of the blue cheese and brie. Rhizomur miehei has a significant role in the production of vegetarian cheeses. Rhizopus oligosporus is used to make tempeh, a popular soy product originating from Indonesia. Quorn, a type of meat substitute, is also made with the help of molds.

Aside from various types of cheese, soy products, and alcoholic beverages, certain species of mold can also be found in sausages and other meat products. Penicillinum naigiovense is the most prominent among them.

What Foods Can Grow Mold?

In addition to foods and beverages that use mold for fermentation and taste, many other types of food can grow it on their own. Some are more prone to it, while others less. Typically, foods that contain a large percentage of water are most vulnerable to mold. On the other hand, dry products and foods that contain preservatives are less likely to develop mold.

Here’s a list of foods that are most likely to grow mold:

  • Due to the high milk content, cheese is very likely to grow mold. Both the hard and soft varieties can be affected.
  • While all types of bread can grow mold, the ones made without preservatives are most vulnerable.
  • Vegetables and fruits. Carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, apples, grapes, and many others are prone to mold.
  • Other foods that can grow mold include nuts, meat and meat products, processed food, and milk.

What to Save and What to Discard?

While one might think that all food becomes completely inedible when mold appears, it is not always so. Though some foods are best thrown away, others can be salvaged. Here’s a quick guide on what to throw and what not to throw when you see mold.

Foods to Throw Away

If mold appears on any of the following items, your safest bet is to discard them right away. The list includes:

  • Cooked Food. Stews, pastas, casseroles, foods containing grains, and other cooked foods should be discarded when mold appears.
  • It is not uncommon for moldy jellies and jams to also contain mycotoxins.
  • Peanut butter. If it doesn’t have preservatives, it has more chance to grow mold.
  • Soft cheese. All types of soft cheese should be thrown away at the sight of mold.
  • Soft veggies and fruits. Throw away all soft vegetables and fruits if they grow mold.
  • Bread that has mold on the surface is likely to have it on the inside, as well.
  • Milk and milk products.

Foods to Not Throw Away

Here’s a list of foods that can be saved:

  • Dry-cured hams and hard salami. Mold has a hard time spreading through dry food.
  • Hard cheese. Mold is used in the production of some cheeses.
  • Firm veggies and fruits. This includes carrots, apples, and bell peppers.

When you see mold on these items, just cut off the portion that contains mold.

Conclusion

Although frowned upon by many, mold is actually not completely bad. Certain species are indispensible in the production of some world-renowned delicacies and alcoholic beverages.

If you were wondering does mold have a taste, the answer is yes. It is earthy and not very pleasant to most people. However, some foods like blue cheese owe their popular taste to mold.

That being said, you should be wary of mold that appears on the food in your fridge. While some food items can be saved when they grow mold, most of them are best disposed of.

 

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-red-yeast-rice/art-20363074
https://www.cdc.gov/mold/dampness_facts.htm
https://www.anbg.gov.au/fungi/what-is-fungus.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2575883/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/monascus-purpureus
https://mycology.adelaide.edu.au/descriptions/hyphomycetes/geotrichum/

Comments

comments