Although you can eat the shell, the question you need to ask is if you want to eat it at all. If the flavor and texture of it enhances the experience of eating the food, the answer is a definite yes.
Just go by what you like as far as taste and texture are concerned while you are eating. If a crust does not look appealing to you, the texture is too hard, or it just tastes bad to you; do not eat it.
Keep in mind that the dairy, not the rind, should be the focus of the tasting experience. Bloomy varieties are white and soft, sometimes even fuzzy.
Cheese makers spray a solution containing edible mold spores; such as Penicillium candidum, camemberti or glaucum, on the cheese. Humidity in the room where the dairy is ripened encourages this mold to grow or bloom in form the hard exterior.
The only reason you might not want to eat a bloomy variety is if the crust has separated from the cheese somewhat, has a gritty texture or an ammoniated flavor. Examples the bloomy variety include Brie, Camembert, Saint Andre, and Mt. Tam.
Look at the color of the exterior to check if it has a noticeably orange or reddish hue. If it does, it is likely to be a washed rind.
Brine, alcohol, or a combination of the two is washed over these varieties, creating a damp environment. A humid environment is where edible molds like B linens are best at growing.
Washed rinds are often the most aromatic, or stinky cheese variety. The flavor of the dairy is typically stronger and saltier, due to the brine and alcohol.
Washed varieties are edible, although you might want to avoid the hard exterior if it tastes excessively salty. Examples of washed rinds include Epoisses, ColoRouge, and Red Hawk.
Natural rinds form with the least amount of man-assisted intervention. In the temperature and humidity controlled rooms where dairy products are aged, air naturally dries out the outside of cheese.
Over time, this forms a thin crust on the outside which becomes its crust. Cheese makers monitor this process and sometimes rub the crust with oil as it forms.
Examples of natural varieties include Stilton, Montgomery Cheddar, Tomme de Savoie, Cantal, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Tumalo Tomme. There are three reasons mongers wrap or cover wheels towards the end of the formation process.
These reasons include protection, flavor, and aesthetics. There are five types of wraps for this dairy product.
You can wrap them in herbs, leaves, or bark; which will absorb the flavor of the dairy from their wrapping. These products are often described as earthy, herbal, grassy, or floral.
You can wrap the wheel in grape leaves; which will give you a Sally Jackson Goat or a Banon. If you choose to use chestnut or walnut leaves, you will form a Pecorino, Sally Jackson Sheep and Cow, or a Capriole's O'Banon.
If you choose to wrap the wheel in cedar fronds you will form Lovetree Farm's Trade Lake Cedar variety. Using nettle leaves will give you a Cowgirl Creamery St. Pat.
Hoja Santa leaves will allow you form Mozzarella Co.'s Hoja Santa goat cheese, while sycamore leaf wraps will form Valdeon. Spruce bark rinds will allow you to make Jasper Hill Farm's Winnimere, or L'edel de Cleron.
An outer coating of herbs adds flavor, although often the crust of herbs is too dry to be edible. Examples include Brin d'Amour/Fleur du Maquis, Herbillette, Cowgirl Creamery Pierce Pt., Willow Hill Farm's Alderbrook, and Lovetree Farm's Big Holmes.
Moist cheeses, like blues, are often packaged in foil to keep them from drying out. Examples of this are Roquefort and Gorgonzola.
Wax is an airtight seal that protects the dairy during aging. Wax covered varieties include Le Chevre Noir, Cheddars, and Leyde.
Cloth protects the outside of a dairy but also allows air in, creating a natural rind beneath the cloth. Cheese wrapped in cloth is often called bandage-wrapped.
Examples of cloth wrapped dairy include Bravo Farms' Silver Moutain, Cheddars, and English Cheeses like Cheshire and Lancashire. Choose your rinds carefully, as they will drastically affect the flavor.