I Tried Growing Mushrooms at Home and Had Ready-To-Harvest Shiitakes in Just 10 Days

Photo: Stocksy/ Jill Chen
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Nikhil Arora, the co-founder of Back to the Roots, the world's fastest-growing organic garden brand, which sells 100 percent USA-grown organic seeds and seed packets, gardening kits, and live plants, and a Well+Good 2022 Changemakers recipient. Our conversation covered a range of topics, including how to grow mushrooms at home, a goal of mine.

During our talk, I learned more about the company’s powerful mission to inspire and educate folks by making home gardening beyond simple with products like their DIY mushroom grow kit. Not only are these kits easy to use, but they also come with a guaranteed-to-grow warranty, which is very promising, considering I don’t have a green thumb and am notorious for letting my plants wilt away.

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After testing out their organic shiitake mushroom kit, I can confidently say that the results were far better than I could’ve ever imagined. I had fully-grown, ready-to-harvest shiitakes within a week and a half—here’s exactly how it all came to life (literally) and what I learned throughout the process.

How I grew shiitake mushrooms at home in just a week and a half

Growing food at home hasn’t been an option for me for the last 12 years… until now. For the last decade or so, I’ve bounced around from apartment to apartment—meaning I don’t have a plot of land to grow plants and veggies. However, upon learning more about Back to the Roots, I discovered that it is possible to grow food from the convenience of my home using their kits (no outdoor space is necessary). Instead, I was shockingly able to harvest shiitake mushrooms right on my kitchen countertop. Though these kits aren’t meant to sustain daily food consumption, they’re a great opportunity to reconnect with the planet and witness how rewarding (and magical!) growing your own food really is, no matter your age.

I received my organic shiitake mushroom kit exactly 12 days ago. It came in a long, rectangular cardboard box with a big blue sticker that read: Grow upon arrival or refrigerate immediately for future use. I decided to open up the box and get started right away. The kit contained four items: A pamphlet with step-by-step instructions, a small spray bottle, a clear plastic bag, and the star of the show: a large brown log with white speckles. (My log was broken in half—which per the instructions, is normal and won’t affect the final results.)

The pamphlet had six easy steps to follow—and the first three are the most critical. To activate the process, you first must soak the entire log in water for at least 12 hours. I proceeded to do so in my sink, and in my case, I left it soaking for 16 hours. The key is it ensure that it’s fully submerged, and I used a plate to help weigh it down since it kept floating to the surface. Once the log was finshed soaking, I transferred it to the humidity bag and placed it on a tray that I kept on the counter, away from direct sunlight, but near a window. This was by far the most hands-on and tedious part of the process.

For the next week or so, I spritzed the log with water using the small spray bottle they provided to help keep moisture levels high—which I could tell was working due to the condensation accumulating inside the bag. I was shocked to find baby mushrooms began to appear within just a few days, otherwise known as “pinning.” At this point, the instructions said to remove it from the bag (which you can save for future use) and allow the mushrooms to continue maturing.

how to grow mushrooms at home back to the roots
Photo: Well+Good

By day seven, they had nearly doubled in size, with a diameter of about one-and-a-half inches, and there were upwards of 20 separate mushrooms on the log. By day 12, they were about two-inches wide and ready to be harvested. According to the instruction booklet, they should be pulled from the root base (before the caps flatten), washed, and cooked before eating.

how to grow mushrooms at home shiitake mushrooms
Photo: Back to the Roots
Organic Shiitake Mushroom Grow Kit — $40.00

Back to the Roots’ organic shiitake mushroom grow kits can yield two to three harvests per box.

What I learned by growing mushrooms at home

It’s easy to go to the grocery store and pick up a container of mushrooms, just like the ones I spent a week-and-a-half growing. However, the process of doing it myself was far more rewarding, and a small reminder of how special the food we consume really is. Plus, Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian and the founder and director of Real Nutrition, notes that shiitake mushrooms are rich in fiber and B vitamins, among other health benefits.

“Some research shows they may contain some of the same amino acids found in meat along with phospholipids, [a major part of cell membranes that act as a barrier], and fatty acids, which boost immunity, decrease cholesterol, promote heart health, and may protect against certain cancers due to their polysaccharides, [which store energy and provide structural support to cells]. Mushrooms are also a food source of vitamin D, so they can help to strengthen bones,” Shapiro says.

how to grow mushrooms at home
Photo: Well+Good

My favorite part was that I was able to get a farm-to-table experience on a miniature scale that, frankly, made me feel like a kid conducting a science experiment (in the best way possible). One of Back to the Roots' latest endeavors has been working with educators to integrate these gardening kits into their curriculums to help students reconnect with where food comes from and the science behind it.

Best of all? It isn’t a one-time-use product. The kit can yield up to three harvests (learn how to store mushrooms like a pro for all the surplus). Plus, if you share a picture of your “garden” on social media and tag @BacktotheRoots and #GrowOneGiveOne, they'll donate a grow kit to an elementary school classroom of your choice—which I’ll definitely be doing so that my nieces can partake in this fun and educational experience, too.

How to make reishi mushroom hot chocolate:

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