Friday, 29 March 2013

Friday fungus: No blue cheese isn't going away...

Penicillium roqueforti - the fungus that makes blue cheese blue

This afternoon Kathryn tripped into the dining room where I was lounging with a book (or rather in these hi-tech times, a kindle) to tell me about the great ploughman's lunch her and Jethro had enjoyed at The George. And more specifically to wave a piece of Yorkshire Blue cheese in my direction - this was because the rest of my family don't like this particular example of the gift that fungi bring to our cuisine.

However, the Co-op has issued a press release saying that Stilton (and I guess other blue cheeses) are 'under threat' because:

Consumption by those under 30 years of age has slumped by 23 per cent and few people under the age of 25 would consider buying it regularly. But cheese experts are warning that if the trend continues it could mean that Blue Stilton, which has been in production in the UK for almost 300 years, would only be available overseas. 

Now I applaud the cuteness of this PR campaign - for that's precisely what this is about.  And if it means that there's more talk of the blue cheese that is brilliant. Apparently the poor kids have been told not to eat mouldy food - so they don't eat Stilton!

The mold in Stilton is Penicillium roqueforti - probably the only fungus with a facebook page - and it's been around a long time (the French folk put bread in caves to catch it before adding it to the cheese). Penicillium roqueforti is a common saprotrophic fungus from the family Trichocomaceae. Widespread in nature, it can be isolated from soil, decaying organic matter, and plants - and we've been using it since at least 500AD and possibly longer.

There will always be folk who don't like the powerful flavours of blue cheeses, just as there are plenty of people who'd rather have a bland processed cheese. But I don't believe for a second that we won't be able to buy Stilton and other blue cheeses in England.


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