Which Fungi is Used as Food?

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Introduction to the Fungi Family

A fungus is one of the most abundant living organisms on the earth. It is a heterotrophic, eukaryotic, and unicellular organism, which differs from both animals and plants. Thus, they are grouped into a separate fungi kingdom. They are the microscopic organisms, which are distributed widely throughout the world. There are more than 70,000 species of fungi identified, where a few of them are mushrooms, moulds, yeasts, rusts, morels, smuts, truffles, and puffballs.

A fungus is a free-living microbe that is found in water, air, in the soil, on land, and plants and animals even. Their size dramatically varies depending on the type of fungus. Fungi have great economic importance. Some poisonous species are poisonous and may harm humans, while on the other side, there are a few edible fungi that can be eaten directly or used as a food component.

Importance of Fungi in Human Life

Fungi play an essential role in several aspects of human life, including farming, food, medicine, and more. We although often think of fungi as such an organism that causes disease and rot food, fungi are essential to human life on different levels. They influence the human population's well-being on a large scale because they are an integral part of ecosystems' nutrient cycle. They also have other uses of ecosystems, such as pesticides.

Biological Insecticides

Fungi help in controlling the population of damaging pests as animal pathogens. These fungi types are specific to the insects they attack; they do not infect plants or animals. Currently, fungi are under investigation as potential microbial insecticides, with many on the market already. For example, the Beauveria bassiana fungus is a pesticide being tested as a possible biological control agent for the spread of emerald ash borer that happened recently.


The mycorrhizal relationship between plant roots and fungi is essential for farmland productivity. In root systems, 80–90 percent of grasses and trees would not survive without the fungal partner. Mycorrhizal fungal inoculants can be availed as the soil additives from gardening supply stores, and also the supporters of organic agriculture to promote them.

Fungus as Food Source

Unless porcinis (an edible mushroom) or portabellas are on the menu, eating fungus is a little unsettling. But the surprising truth is that we would miss a few culinary delights if we turned up our noses at all fungi. Let's have a look at where the fungi are lurking on our plate.

  • Yeast Spread

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Yeast is one of the most easily recognized fungal chefs, and this organism is responsible for bread and beer. We may not know that yeast can also be broken down by large amounts of salt to create a compound similar to MSG or much-maligned monosodium glutamate. As a vitamin source, this yeast-derivative gives food the filling and savory flavor called umami, which can be seen on the soup labels as autolyzed yeast or hydrolyzed yeast.

The standard British spread, Marmite has also processed yeast and has been referred to as tasting like "salty beefy fermented soy sauce" or "the flavor packet comes with beef-flavored ramen."

  • Cheese

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Bacteria are the salient microbes to thank for cheese. Besides, in certain types of cheese, bacteria get a little help from fungi. Blue cheeses such as Roquefort owe their characteristic blue veins to Penicillium fungi. Like the fermentation of cheese and beer, the discovery of the joy of moldy cheese is believed to be a happy accident, where the result of someone leaving drink or food in a cave and being brave enough to taste it when they come back to it.

Other mold-ripened cheeses, like Camembert, stand out for their rinds, which are the actual dense fungal webs.

  • Soy Sauce

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Soy sauce is traditionally made through a three-step process. The first step is to combine wheat, soybeans, and fungus using a ratio that's a trade secret for each producer. This mixture stews for three days, giving the fungus time to coat the grains with yellow mold. Then the mix is fermented in brine and strained to create the familiar sauce. Various types of soy sauce are made by adjusting the ratio of soy to wheat, replacing the fermenting time, and other recipe tweaks. If that isn't our taste, we can opt for non-brewed soy sauce, which is the result of boiling soybeans in acid. Tempeh, sake, miso, and many other Asian cuisine staples undergo the same processes, the latter two with similar Aspergillus oryzae fungus.

  • Mushrooms

There are various mushrooms species, which are edible and are cultured in different parts of the world. Mushrooms are divided into vegetable classes, which provide several essential nutrients and more enormous health benefits as they are low in calories and edible fibre and vitamin - B sources. Excessive mushrooms consumption helps decrease obesity risk, heart disease, diabetes, and overall mortality.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Explain which Fungi is used as a Medicine?

Most of the secondary metabolites of fungi have significant commercial importance. Fungi naturally form antibiotics to inhibit or kill bacterial growth, limiting their competition in the natural environment. Necessary antibiotics, such as cephalosporins and penicillin, can be isolated from fungi. More expensive drugs that are isolated from fungi include the immunosuppressant drug, called cyclosporine (which reduces the rejection risk after organ transplantation), ergot alkaloids, and the precursors of steroid hormones, which can be used to stop bleeding. Psilocybin compound is the one that is found in fungi like Gymnopilus Junonius and Psilocybe Semilanceata, which has been used for their hallucinogenic properties by different cultures for thousands of years.

Additionally, many essential genes are discovered originally in S. cerevisiae, which served as a starting point in identifying the analogous human genes.

2. Explain Some of the Functions of Fungi.

Fungi is one of the most prestigious groups of organisms on earth. They are essential in a variety of ways are,

  • Mycorrhizae and Plant Growth - Fungi are very important for the excellent growth of many plants, including crops, through the mycorrhizal association development.

  • Recycling - Fungi, with bacteria together, is responsible for the most recycling, which returns dead material to the soil in a reusable form. Without fungi, these recycling activities would be reduced entirely.

  • Medicines - Penicillin, perhaps the most famous compared to all antibiotic drugs, is derived from a common fungus, known as Penicillium.

  • Food - Fungi is also important directly as food for humans. Many edible mushrooms and various species are cultivated for worldwide sales.