Monday, January 28, 2013

Mushroom Gardening with Children

Oyster Mushrooms 8
Oyster Mushrooms 8 (Photo credit: portmanteaus)
It is always heartening to hear about companies coming up with clever, sustainable ideas. One such company, Back to the Roots, has created an easy mushroom kit that starts fruiting after only 10 days.

In 2009, two recent MBA graduates, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, stumbled upon the idea of "growing mushrooms on used coffee grounds". Typically, mushrooms are grown on tree logs, but oyster mushrooms also do well growing growing on a "waste" material that usually ends up in the land-fill.

Arora and Velez knew nothing about mushroom farming, but when they found a free source of coffee grounds, they began experimenting. They started selling their oyster mushrooms to Alice Water's Chez Panisse and Whole Foods. Peet's Coffeehouse ended up paying them to haul away their coffee grounds, which means that Back to the Roots (BTTR) not only got their mushroom substrate for free, they were making a little bit of revenue from the exchange. Last year, BBTR, diverted 3.6 million pounds of waste from the land-fill!

After much tweaking, BBTR, designed a simple Mushroom Garden that only requires you to mist it with water twice a day. You cut open the window, mist using the spray mister included, sit the kit on a window-sill and then harvest your pearl oyster mushrooms! You can grow up to 1 1/2 lbs of mushrooms per box and will get at least 2 crops, maybe more. You can use the mix of left-over mushroom roots and coffee grounds as a soil amendment for any outdoor plants, when you are finished harvesting your crops. Pretty cool, right?

Each kit costs $20 and can be found in many Whole Food, Home Depot, Safeway, Nordstrom, Bed, Bath and Beyond stores. Or you can buy it directly from Back to the Roots. They even have a kit that you can decorate yourself. Talk about a cool hands-on Science Project for children. I can't wait to get ours!
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