Mushrooms are living things. They consist of individual cells with a nucleus. In biology, they form their own kingdom alongside animals and plants. They are more similar to plants in that they cannot move by themselves. Unlike plants, however, fungi do not need the sun’s light to live. The way fungi take in food and store energy is also closer to plants than animals.
What we mostly refer to as a fungus is only part of the whole living thing. In the case of large mushrooms, we often only see the fruiting body, which is there for propagation. The actual fungus is a fine, usually almost invisible network in the ground or in the wood.
Mushrooms are very important in the cycle of nature: they break down waste, dead animals, and dead plants. This turns them back to earth. Mold does this job for example. However, if it affects food or living spaces, caution is required, or even a specialist is needed.
In the United States, there is a mushroom that has grown over an area of almost three square kilometers. He is probably 2400 years old. This fungus is one of the oldest and largest creatures on earth.
How do fungi feed and reproduce?
Mushrooms absorb their nutrients through the surface, so they don’t have to eat and swallow them. They usually expel some kind of saliva through the surface. This breaks up the food so that it can get into the fungus through the surface.
Reproduction is asexual in most fungi. The fungi simply split off tiny particles called spores. They then fall off, often being carried away by the wind. If they fall into a favorable place, they can continue to grow there.
How do people use the mushrooms?
Some mushrooms can be eaten. Man has always known that. There are healthy, tasty mushrooms. Others aren’t tasty, but they don’t hurt either. A third group causes abdominal pain but is not particularly dangerous. The fourth group of mushrooms is so poisonous that people die if they eat them. You should therefore only eat mushrooms from nature if you know what you’re doing, or have them checked by a specialist.
A special fungus is very important when baking bread: yeast. This fungus consists of individual cells. When it’s moist and warm, they process sugars, which they also find in the flour. This produces a harmless gas, carbon dioxide. That makes the holes in the dough. In addition, an acid is produced, which gives the bread its typical taste.
Yeast fungi are also needed in the production of beer. There is always grain in beer. The yeast takes the sugar from it and turns it into alcohol. In addition, the gas carbon dioxide is also produced, which makes the bubbles in the beer.
Certain molds are sometimes needed to make cheese. The white mold cheese is soft on the inside and has a white layer on the outside made by mold. The blue mold cheese contains blue inclusions, which are also made by a mold. Mushrooms were also at work in many different yogurts and similar products. They give the products a special taste.
A mold from which the antibiotic penicillin is made is of particular medical importance. It helps against various diseases caused by bacterial infections for which there was no help before the discovery of penicillin.