The world is full of fungus, and somehow it has become a dirty word. “Mold” we think, is a Bad Thing, to eradicate and exterminate at all costs.
That attitude is in fact both futile, and harmful. Not only is it impossible to eradicate, but the effort to do so is actually counterproductive! Mold and fungus spores disperse and persist in the air. So you can never quite obliterate them – they'll just rematerialize and grow on whatever surface you just sterilized, even in a "clean room".
Sterilization of many things is in fact counterproductive, because when you sterilize something, you leave it wide open for opportunistic contamination. This does not refer to surgical situations, but rather to daily life, cultivation, and even food preparation. Even in surgery, the doctor only sterilizes what is OUTSIDE the body, not what is INSIDE it.
There are healthy bacteria and fungus around us, and unhealthy ones. In general, the healthy ones do a pretty good job of keeping the unhealthy ones in check – and bacteria and fungus have limiting affects on each other. So if you kill one, the other gets out of control – hence, when we take an antibiotic, we often end up with a fungal infection as a result of having killed off the friendly bacteria in our bodies.
So if you sterilize something, whatever you sterilized is now open territory. Whatever colonizes first will grow unrestrained, often very fast, and very aggressive. A microbe which was not a threat at all, will suddenly become very damaging.
This is why pasteurized milk is more prone to harmful contamination than raw milk. This is why sterilized potting soil always seems to grow mold faster than dirt from the garden. This is also one reason why farm fresh eggs, produced in the typical dirt, hay, mud, grub and skelter of the typical small farm, are less likely to carry salmonella than eggs produced in a controlled factory farm setting (extended time between gathering and consumption gives it plenty of time to grow). It is also why we now have more aggressive forms of food poisoning than we used to. A natural balance of microbes enhances the health of everyone involved, and reduces the chances that a single opportunistic microbe will run wild and multiply to the point of making anyone (or anything) sick.
Unfortunately, we've been taught in the last 5 decades to view all fungus as harmful. To think the word itself is somehow repulsive, and something to avoid. Never mind that some of the most healthy foods in the world are healthy specifically because they contain a large body of both bacteria and fungus. Never mind that bread is made using fungus as a leavening agent (yeast), or that mushrooms, one of the world's most prized foods, are really just fungus.
Real kefir, kombucha, yogurt, raw milk, fresh eggs, fresh sour kraut, naturally brined pickles, etc, all contain a variety of yeasts, molds, and bacteria (YES, they do TOO contain molds). They are not harmful because they are kept in healthy balance by the variety and abundance of them. Those microbes colonize in our intestines, where they help with food digestion, they help to stimulate the immune system, they help to reduce the chances of foodborne illness (by providing a frontline defense to help control and reduce the growth of foodborne pathogens), and they help to heal and mend damaged tissues.
Fungus is mostly good stuff! There are actually very few harmful fungi, in comparison to the number of helpful molds, yeasts, and mushrooms. No need to feel that you need to run for the bleach every time you hear the word “fungus”. It is one of the benefits we receive from nature every day – and one we should appreciate and encourage in healthy ways.
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