The sight and smell of Stilton, Gorgonzola or Roquefort might make the hearts of cheese fans beat a little faster, but for those unfamiliar with mould-ripened cheeses, the sight of blue/green spots or veins of mould running through a cheese might raise the obvious question: is the mould in blue cheese edible?
The short answer is yes. Blue cheeses are produced using natural and human-friendly moulds which are responsible for yielding those sought-after tangy, spicy, sharp and strong flavours that are hard to find in other cheeses.
In fact, humans have considered blue cheese a safe mouldy food to eat over the past 9,000 years, with Gorgonzola being one of the oldest known blue cheeses, having been created around AD 879.
While humans are naturally averse to mould on food as a sign of spoiling - usually resulting in an unpleasant change in flavour, appearance, texture and aroma - blue cheese uses moulds that do not produce toxins by themselves and are not dangerous to humans.
Penicillium Roqueforti and Penicillium Glaucum are the two moulds used to make blue cheese, which is done in controlled environments. As the cheese ages, the moulds accelerate the breakdown of proteins and fats in the milk, giving a creamy, tangy, salty cheese. To increase the amount and encourage the distribution of blue mould throughout the cheese, the cheese is usually pierced with thick needles to allow more oxygen in and increase sought after mould growth.