Where Does Mold Come From?

moldy_tomatoAfter switching lunchboxes, we kind of forgot the old one for a while. And the half of a bagel with cream cheese that was inside. Oops.

Opening up the old lunchbox, we saw a lot of green fuzzy stuff—mold – had grown on the outside of the bagel.

What makes mold grow? What is mold, anyway?

Mold is a living microorganism that is part of the Fungi kingdom. Fungi aren’t plants, and they aren’t animals. Yeasts (used to make bread rise) and mushrooms are fungi, too. Fungi “eat” by releasing enzymes that break down their food into a form the fungi can absorb.

How did the mold get on the bagel? Mold reproduces by releasing tiny spores. These spores are so small that they can float in the air, from food source to food source. Mold grows well in moist conditions, which is why some foods, like fruit, attract it more than others. Molds come in many different colors, from black to blue to green.

Mold may look gross, it may be hard to clean up, and it may even cause allergies and breathing problems in some people, but mold isn’t all bad. There are quite a few medicines made from mold, including penicillin, which is used to treat illnesses like strep throat. Mold is even used to produce some kinds of food, like soy sauce and certain types of cheese. Fungi of all sorts are important in helping decompose (break down) organic matter.

Speaking of fungi, here’s an unscientific* joke for you:

Q: Why did all the girl mushrooms want to date the guy mushroom?
A. Because they knew that he was a fungi! (Get it? A fun guy!)

*This joke is unscientific because we know that fungi are asexual—there are no girl and no boy mushrooms!

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