Mushrooms in the Southwest with Back to the Roots

Back when we rode dinosaurs to school, a group of us went on a plant collecting trip. One of our number was botanist Rodney Engard of blessed memory. Rodney became quite distracted from the plants by some mushrooms, tracking their pattern across the desert floor and calling us to see the dead tree they were busily composting the roots of. Mushrooms in the desert was an eye-opener for me! Alas, those were a non-edible species.

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There are many edible mushrooms in the world, and they all have different tastes and textures.

Fast forward a few years (or so) to 2015 when I met the U of A “Myco-cats” at Tucson Festival of Books. This group of students were growing edible mushrooms in the desert. Edible! Yes it can be done! There are a few tips and tricks, but once started, you can easily keep going and growing crop after crop of tasty mushrooms – in your kitchen!

But somehow I never got started growing mushrooms until asked to review a Back to the Roots product. This company is “… on a mission to reconnect every family and kid back to where food comes from by helping them experience the magic of growing it themselves – no green thumb or backyard needed. We hope you enjoy our indoor gardening kits and join us on our journey to turn every windowsill into an organic garden.” (Quoted from their website.) And one of their windowsill kits was for growing mushrooms.

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No two farm crops will look exactly alike, depending on growing conditions. They all TASTE good tho! Photo courtesy of Back to the Roots.

Product Components – What comes with the Mushroom Farm?

The Mushroom Farm comes with everything need to get started** (see **Care below). The farm includes a sealed bag of mushroom spawn infused organic substrate, an instruction card, and a mini spray bottle. The box is the farm and serve as the mushroom home while it grows. They do require misting to keep the substrate moist.

Growing Conditions

The Mushroom Farm does best with indirect sunlight. For us that was on the side counter. The oyster mushrooms in the kit will grow in normal room temperature (65-70 °F), but do not mind slightly warmer spaces. We tried on top of the freezer, but that was too warm (85 °F due to the motor) and they were drying out excessively.

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Note that these are growing in a translucent container covered with a moist towel, not in their grow box. This minor modification is needed in our arid corner of the world.
**Care of the Mushroom Farm

Here in the Southwest, our humidity is very low – in fact too low for most mushrooms! Humid parts of the country can mist twice per day with the little bottle, but the Myco-cats had warned me. To grow mushrooms in the desert you need a translucent plastic bin with a damp towel over the top. The towel dried in about 12 hours so I kept re-wetting morning and night and using the spray bottle every so often. This worked well.

Growth

Mushrooms emerge from the substrate in 5 to 12 days, depending on how warm your house is. If they don’t the company stands behind their product.

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High in protein, mushrooms are part of this low-carb meal made with garbanzo bean pasta.

The Mushrooms

The Mushroom Farm grows gourmet Pearl Oyster mushrooms. They’re commonly found in Europe and Asia and are used increasingly in a variety of cuisines for their velvety texture, smooth taste, and dense nutrient content.

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The mushrooms paired well with a craft beer from Tavour – but more about that product in a future post.

Oyster mushrooms have a mild flavor that is very versatile when it comes to the food they complement. They pair well in pastas, skewers, soups, salads, any stir fry dish, or sauteé and top a sandwich or burger with them, or anything else you like to put mushrooms in! They taste amazing, especially when they’re so fresh, and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Final Score

Back to the Roots Mushroom Farm is a 5 star product. The price is not cheap, but consider the positive features: certified organic; non-GMO; made in the USA; upcycled materials helping keep our planet sustainable; a great website to answer questions; a reputable company; a nutritious and healthy product; – and second best of all – the chance to share the joy of growing food for the table with the classroom of your choice through their easy campaign #Grow One, Give One @BacktotheRoots.

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First best of all is the delightful flavor of truly fresh mushrooms. It will be hard to ever go back to store bought for us.

This kit would make a good Father’s Day gift! Especially if dad likes to cook and savor his food. This would also be a fun project for a granddad to do with younger grandchildren.

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The kit comes with a festive and recyclable packing material!

Come to think, my Dad and I introduced my grandfather to eating mushrooms on Father’s Day when he was in his late 80’s. He had never eaten “toadstools” before and was highly skeptical. Sauteéd with butter, he decided mushrooms were highly edible, and for the next 5 years he made his own 2 to 3 times a week.

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