College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Freaky fungus could help feed the world

A Dutch bio-engineer says his lab-produced fungus could someday be used to save the lives of hungry people in the developing world.

But first, it might need some extra Rooster Sauce to make it go down easier.

“It has a very strong taste, a bitter aftertaste,” says Hans van Leeuwen, a professor at Iowa State University. His research team has tried to make the fungal food tastier by flavoring it with spices, eggs, and flour. Still, as van Leeuwen admits, “It has a unique flavor. I like the taste, I’ve been eating it for years. But it puts some people off.”

The fungus is cultivated from the leftovers of ethanol production – a fuel derived from corn. Van Leeuwen combines the ethanol byproduct with a common type of mold – “a species you could find in the kitchen” – and grows a batch over a 48-hour period. After harvesting it through screens, he runs it through a washing machine in order to dry it out, as the product is about 90 percent water at this point.

Finally, it’s dried out further in a microwave. The resulting fungal food – which has a meaty texture and ranges from brown to mustard yellow in color – is then fit for human consumption, although it has also proved to be very popular with pigs in feeding trials.

Read the full story on