Balancing Act

Review: Back to the Roots DIY home grown oyster mushroom kit

While on the flight back to Los Angeles from Philadelphia post-Thanksgiving, I flipped through Delta's SkyMall mail order catalog that was placed in the backseat pocket of passenger seats for passengers to read. One item caught my attention and it's the home grown mushroom kit. The ad claims that 1 to 1.5 lb of gourmet oyster mushrooms can be grown in as little as 10 days. The kit sells for $20.00 and claims to yield multiple crops for harvest during its usable lifespan. Do it yourself gourmet mushroom growing kit? Why not? I purchased the kit sometime in late December 2012 and received the package on the second week of January. The company that makes this kit is Oakland, CA based company, Back to the Roots (BTTR). The company was started by two UC Berkeley students. How they started this joint venture is an interesting entrepreneurial read.

The kit includes a mini water sprayer, a bag covered with oyster mushroom mycelia (the white stuff) and filled with used coffee ground acting as nutrients for the fungi colony and a nifty cardboard display case. After tearing the package apart, I set up the kit as per the instruction, i.e. slit a cross on the bag and soak it in water for 8 hours (4 hours short of the recommended 12 hours) and spritz water at the slit twice a day. Some online reviewers recommended soaking the bag for 24 hours, including owners of BTTR in a video blog. 10 days have passed and no shrooms. Another 10 days went by, still no shrooms. On the 21st day though, I finally saw little pin heads beginning to push themselves out:

Day 2 of sprouting (22nd day - 1/27/13)

Day 2 of sprouting (22nd day - 1/27/13)

Day 3 of sprouting (23rd day - 1/28/13)

Day 3 of sprouting (23rd day - 1/28/13)

Day 4 of sprouting (24th day - 1/29/13)

Day 4 of sprouting (24th day - 1/29/13)

Day 5 of sprouting (25th day - 1/30/13)

Day 5 of sprouting (25th day - 1/30/13)

I've moved the mushroom colony to a storage cabinet that is adjacent to the water heater in an attempt o increase the surrounding temperature but not heat the colony directly to see if an increase in temperature can help increase growth rate. The results are pretty clear:

Day 6 of sprouting (26th day - 1/31/13)

Day 6 of sprouting (26th day - 1/31/13)

As you can see, sprouts and beginning to show up everywhere; front, back, side, up and down:

Front of box (notice I had to trim the side to allow room for the shrooms to bloom)

Front of box (notice I had to trim the side to allow room for the shrooms to bloom)

The once barren center is now peppered with sprouts

The once barren center is now peppered with sprouts

I decided to start the back prematurely after seeing spots of sprouts growing everywhere

I decided to start the back prematurely after seeing spots of sprouts growing everywhere

Day 7 of sprouting (27th day - 2/1/13)

Day 7 of sprouting (27th day - 2/1/13)

Day 7 of sprouting (27th day - 2/1/13)

Day 7 of sprouting (27th day - 2/1/13)

Day 8 of sprouting (27th day - 2/2/13)

Day 8 of sprouting (27th day - 2/2/13)

View of planter on day 9th of sprouting

View of planter on day 9th of sprouting

Day 9 of sprouting (28th day - 2/3/13)

Day 9 of sprouting (28th day - 2/3/13)

The planter, 9th day

The planter, 9th day

Completely forgot to update the progress photos, but we harvested the mature mushrooms and cooked them in a traditional Chinese dish for Chinese New Year

Completely forgot to update the progress photos, but we harvested the mature mushrooms and cooked them in a traditional Chinese dish for Chinese New Year

It probably took so long to grow because of a couple of factors. The initial short time soaking in water and cold ambient indoor temperature (approximately 60-65 degrees F). While it took 3 weeks for my oyster mushrooms to sprout, it is certainly not the norm. I'll update this post a couple of times with photos of the mushroom colony growth progress until harvest.

I think this home grown mushroom kit is pretty neat and makes for a great teaching tool for kids (also a great conversation piece). BTTR has a promo where they send out a mushroom growing kit to a classroom of your choice if you post a photo of your crop with you or your child in it on their Facebook page. I tip my hat to that. This kit can can also be purchased at your local Whole Foods Market in addition to multiple online distributors, including direct from BTTR.

Where to buy

SkyMall - $19.99

Back to the Roots - $19.95

Whole Foods Market - ~$20.00

Various retailers - ~$20.00

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