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Human Uses of Fungi

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Human Uses of Fungi

What's growing on this lemon?

Would you believe penicillin? Penicillin is a mold, which of course is a fungus, one that has helped millions, if not billions, of people.

Human Uses of Fungi

Whenever you eat pizza, you eat fungi, even if you don’t like your pizza with mushrooms. That’s because pizza dough contains yeast . Do you know other foods that are made with fungi?

Fungi for Food

Humans have collected and grown mushrooms for food for thousands of years. Figure below shows some of the many types of mushrooms that people eat. Yeasts are used in bread baking and brewing alcoholic beverages. Other fungi are used in fermenting a wide variety of foods, including soy sauce, tempeh, and cheeses. Blue cheese has its distinctive appearance and flavor because of the fungus growing though it (see Figure below ).

Edible types of mushrooms

These are just a few of the many species of edible mushrooms consumed by humans.

Blue cheese has mold growing in it.

Blue Cheese. The dark blue strands running through this cheese are a fungus. In fact, this cheese is moldy! The fungus is Penicillium roqueforti , a type of mold.

Fungi for Pest Control

Harmless fungi can be used to control pathogenic bacteria and insect pests on crops. Fungi compete with bacteria for nutrients and space, and they parasitize insects that eat plants. Fungi reduce the need for pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

Other Uses of Fungi

Fungi are useful for many other reasons.

  • They are a major source of citric acid (vitamin C).
  • They produce antibiotics such as penicillin , which has saved countless lives.
  • They can be genetically engineered to produce insulin and other human hormones.
  • They are model research organisms. To see how one lab is using yeast in cancer research, watch the video at this link: http://college.usc.edu/news/stories/727/yeast-unleashed/ .

Summary

  • Humans use fungi for many purposes, including as food or in the preparation of food.
  • Humans also use fungi for pest control.
  • In addition, fungi can be used to produce citric acid, antibiotics, and human hormones.
  • Fungi are model research organisms as well.

Practice

Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

  1. How are fungi being used to help human health?
  2. Describe how fungi are used as food.
  3. Describe commercial uses of fungi.

Review

  1. Describe two ways that humans use fungi.

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