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Hungry Planet: Stories of Plant Diseases

Chapter Ten. Student Resources

Natural Poisons and Gourmet Delicacies: Fungi in Food

Moldy food does not appeal to most people. The smell and appearance can be repugnant, but toxic substances produced by fungi in stored food can be deadly.  Ergotism of the Middle Ages caused the suffering and death of thousands of people before it was discovered that the black ergots of a fungus were contaminating rye flour and causing the disease. People also have discovered that other fungal contaminants are appealing. For example, ears of sweet corn with galls of corn smut are considered a delicacy, as are cheeses and grapes inoculated with fungi that add to their taste and value. 

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