Single Celled Fungi
For those who haven't noticed, the picture associated with my account is a table full of mushrooms I picked while visiting my wife's family in Poland.
Some may question why I would have a picture of Mushrooms on a website dedicated to Bread Enthusiasts. It is something of an inside joke that I will let you in on. I consider myself a novice Mycocologist who forages for mycelium fruiting bodies (mushrooms) for fun and relaxation. After a day in the woods, I then use single-celled mycelium to leaven bread. Mycelium, for those who don't know, is the organism producing the fruiting body we call mushrooms. Those of you already in on the joke know all about the fungi used to leaven bread - yeast.
I recently posted about another fungus, Aspergillus oryzae, also known as KOJI in Japan.
Humans from every corner of the globe have harnessed the power of fungi and bacteria in food production; it is only recently that many foods for either practical, economic or "health" reasons have moved away from "spoiling".
As many here on the site have switched from monocultural commercial yeast to multi-floral yeast/bacteria, sourdoughs can attest; There are advantages to having microbes predigest and break down the starches and proteins we consume.
There have even been promising reports of Aspergillus Oryzae (a fungi classified as a mold) processed wheat products being made safe for the 1% of the population that suffers from celiac disease. Regular sourdough bread has been shown to be safe for many who have a gluten intolerance as well.
I've limited this post to two fungi that are used in the fermentation of grains, but we live in a fungal world where all animal life on earth evolved from it and nearly all plant life cannot survive without it. As hard as it is to believe fungi are closer (biologically speaking) to humans than to plants. It has recently been declared the third kingdom of Plant, Animal and Fungal. Fungi are being used to clean toxic waste sites and create new food sources. In material science, to make materials that can not be made any other way. We are just scratching the surface of what is quickly becoming a new and exciting field of study.
The largest living organism on earth is a mycelial network here in the USA that produces edible mushrooms called "Honey Mushrooms". I find this apropos that the discovery of the world's largest organism fell roughly in line with humanity's discovery of an entirely new "life form" that has been hidden in plain sight, keeping us alive and noursihed.