Since ancient times, fungi have been a part of man’s life in a very special way, as they have been a source of medicine, food, and used in the beverage, baking and other industries.
Fungi play an important role in the balance of nature , since, like bacteria , they play the role of decomposers, degrading the body of dead animals and plants, or the remains of these organisms, such as leaves and fruits, skins, feces, etc. In this way, they transform organic matter into simple inorganic matter, which can be reused by other living things.
Man has taken advantage of the fermenting activity of certain fungi, such as yeasts , for the production of food, fuel and fermented beverages.
To obtain energy, yeasts of the genus Saccharomyces perform a process called alcoholic fermentation. In this process, they turn carbohydrates (sugars) into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
When bread is made , these fungi are added to the ingredients of the dough, and the carbon dioxide produced in the fermentation forms small bubbles and causes the dough to grow.
When it is taken to the oven, the heat causes the gas bubbles to expand, increasing the volume of the mass, leaving it full of holes and soft. As the bread bakes, alcohol evaporates and fungi die.
The holes that appear on the bread, after roasting, were caused by the gas bubbles that formed during the fermentation. In the production of beverages such as wine , beer and aguardente (pinga), the same process of alcoholic fermentation is used, but in this case, what interests the producers is the alcohol produced during the fermentation of the carbohydrate (sugar) that exists in grapes, barley and cane, respectively.
The alcohol used as a fuel in automobiles (ethanol) solvent or disinfectant, is also produced by yeasts from sugarcane.
Many fungi are part of human food. Known as mushrooms or champignons , they are consumed worldwide.
Edible mushrooms are nutritious because they are rich in vitamins and minerals (potassium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium), and contain a considerable amount of protein.
Certain cheeses, such as roquefort , camembert and gorgonzola , are produced with the help of fungi, which give them a characteristic flavor and aroma.
In the roquefort and gorgonzola cheeses , the spicy taste and the strong aroma are achieved because, in their masses, after molding, molds of Penicillium roqueforti fungi are introduced , which develop in the presence of air and cause them to have green- bluish
Camembert cheeses are dipped in a Penicillium fungus mold solution to create a creamy texture. On the outside of the cheese, the fungi form a thin, hard, white surface.
Fungi are also used in the production of antibiotics , medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria.
The Penicillin was the first antibiotic to be produced from the fungus Penicillium notatum , discovered in 1928 by Dr. Alexander Fleming.
This was one of the most important discoveries in the natural sciences, for which Fleming won the Nobel Prize in 1945 and the title of Sir , given by King George VI.
Because they are heterotrophs, some of them are installed in the body of animals and vegetables still alive and act as parasites, and can cause them diseases.