You, too can be a mushroom farmer – at least for 10 days at a clip. I met Nikhil Arora, one of the founders of Back to the Roots, at the Fancy Food Show. This company was founded by Nikhil and Alejandro Velez fresh out of college, when they realized how easy it is to grow mushrooms on used coffee grounds (for them, maybe – more on that later). They abandoned their plans to become investment bankers in favor of promoting food awareness and recycling while making a living with a cool, Millennial-style business.
Nikhil generously offered to send me a trial Mushroom Kit. Now, this was not the first time I had tried to raise a crop of oyster mushrooms with this product; he had previously sent one which, due probably to my incompetence, failed to produce a crop. This just served to reconfirm my black thumb regarding raising mushrooms.
Many years ago I acquired a shiitake log which required a complicated regimen of soaking and sun exposure to get the inoculated spore to sprout. I nursed that log for months and produced exactly one mushroom. I wasn’t convinced the second Mushroom Kit would work either, but was ever hopeful.
The design of the Kit is a great big improvement on my log. It arrives as a self-contained box with a brick of inoculated growing medium (certified organic!) in a heavy plastic bag, a spray bottle, and easy instructions. The box is covered with attractive graphics, bad puns, and easy recipes designed to appeal to the whole family.
I followed the instructions, and guess what? It worked! I got a nice crop of oysters in just under two weeks.
The box sat there for more than a week, doing nothing, and then, suddenly, there they were. After they sprouted, they got big fast. Three days later, I harvested my crop.
The recipes printed on the box included one for tacos. I made it, adding a few ingredients I had on hand, and making burritos because I had larger flour tortillas instead of smaller, corn-based ones. They were tasty and gratifying, since I grew the mushrooms myself!
I imagine that watching those suckers grow is terrific for kids. Once they appear, they grow at an almost terrifying rate for a few days, then they can be cooked and eaten immediately. I’m now soaking the farm again in the hopes of raising a second crop. Fingers crossed, black thumb and all!