Back to the Roots Mushroom Growing Kit Review

Mushroom box

Awhile back, I picked up this oyster mushroom grow box from the local supermarket. I got it started and it’s been showing some good results, so it’s time to review this. I’ve seen the Back to the Roots kit for sale for at various stores, but you can also pick it up on Amazon. I’ve long been fascinated by mushrooms and I love hunting for them. Occasionally, I have dreams where I find money on the ground .They’re my favorite dreams. The closest I can reliably get to that in real life is spotting garish orange chanterelles or alien morels on the forest floor. So naturally, I was interested in getting that experience in my own kitchen.

My kit cost about $20 and I originally started one back in December. Alas, despite soaking it and watering it, I couldn’t get it to grow past micro-mushrooms (called “pins”). I believe the relative humidity (RH) was too low in the household, down to about 5% in our cold snap. The poor things withered and died, even after repeated attempts to get them to grow again.

Back to the Roots was sympathetic and sent me a new box. This one came with a small mister, which is critical. Now, the company says that these will grow mushrooms in ten days and that’s a suspicious promise. You’ll note the date written on the box – 3/15/15 – and that was a full fifteen days ago. Nonetheless, it’s grown mushrooms past that pin stage.

What was the difference? Misting was a big one. If you don’t get a mister or a spray bottle, pick one up. Further, I used filtered water because the chlorine in the tapwater will do bad things to the mushroom “roots.” In the first two weeks, I also lightly tented it with a plastic shopping bag. It was unattractive, but it kept the humidity up. It must have worked!

mushroom closeup

These gross little guys are glistening because I have obsessively misted them every time I walk past them. I’m hoping they grow on out to be standard-size Oysters. If I get that far, I’ll definitely be posting brag pics and recipes.

Bottom Line: this is not as easy as it looks to grow. They’re fun to watch grow, since they start shooting up at a rapid pace. If you’ve got kids, this could be a fun project that’s also more immediately rewarding then growing seeds. They promise two growths (flushes) for $20, which is about what two pounds of Oysters cost in the store. It’s not cost-effective but it’s certainly cool.

Mushrooms are a vital part of the garden landscape. Their roots, called mycelium (pl. mycelia) create mutually helpful relationships with plant roots. In exchange for some of those sweet plant sugars, mycelia offer trace minerals and nutrients for the plants to take up. I am deep into mushroom ecology as part of the wider garden picture. Your plants do better when they’ve got mushrooms around.

When it’s planting time for things outside, I’ll be working mushroom spawn into the mulch. I hope to get a crop of winecap mushrooms in among the roses and when this Oyster box gives up, I’ll mix it in with mulch to try for another run at mushrooms. When that happens, you’ll be able to read it here.