Last month I discovered that you shouldn't eat bread that has even a little bit of mold on it. Pretty devastating, right? All mold has a part that you can see, and also a microscopic part that you can't see. Science Insider explains this horror with a great analogy of mushrooms growing in a forest. The part any human can see, the caps that grow above ground, are actually joined by an underground network of microscopic roots called hyphae.
It turns out this isn't just the case for bread, unfortunately. It's also a great analogy for a food I assumed couldn't get moldy like other food: soft and shredded cheese.
Here I was low-key freaking out about the lifespan of a loaf of sourdough I just made and whether or not I should invest in an electron microscope to really check for mold, and all along I should've been worried about cheese!
The Cheeses to Avoid When You See Mold
Writer Gwen Ithnat over at The Takeout presumably asked what other foods harbor the grody roots of Rhizopus Stolonifer, the most common of bread molds. Apparently soft cheeses are much more porous than firmer cheese and therefore can harbor the spreading of mold, like when you buy too much Whole Foods goat cheese rolled in pepper, and lament as you toss away a chunk that's gone bad a week or so later.
"If mold is present on soft cheeses (such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ricotta), or any kind of cheese that is shredded, crumbled, or sliced ... toss it. Toss it all!" says Ithnat.
But Semi-Soft Cheeses Are (Usually) Fine
There are some cheeses — the harder and semi-soft variety — that you don't need to toss completely at the first sign of mold. With Camembert, Swiss, and cheddar, a little amputation is in order. Just cut an inch around the mold spot (in all directions — especially those thicker chunks of cheesy goodness, and you'll be good to go.
And Some Cheese Are Basically Edible Mold
Of course, some types of cheese are essentially made of mold, and they don't present a risk as long as you don't have a weakened immune system. "Carie Wagner, Wisconsin's only female master cheesemaker and the cheese and egg product manager at Organic Valley, points out that, after all, when you eat some cheeses — like blue, Brie, and Camembert — you're basically eating edible mold," relates Ithnat. These cheeses are made with a specific type of mold that makes them OK to eat.
As for more obvious techniques to know if your cheese is good, just smell it. If your nose is like Elmer Fudd's or Pepe Le Pew's, I suggest asking a friend to check your Limburger for you.