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Mid-March in the Northeast is too early for any serious gardening, and growing mushrooms in a box is better than not growing anything at all, so when wandering through Home Depot a few weeks ago, we picked up the Mushroom Mini-Farm on impulse. It turned out to be an interesting project and the mushrooms tasted great.
Setting up the mushroom kit is easy. Simply cut out the pre-marked opening on the back of the box to expose the interior plastic bag, cut an X in the bag's plastic, scrape some of the white protective covering off the growing medium (I scraped off quite a bit), remove the plastic bag from the box, then put the bag in water and soak the growing medium for 12 hours. Once the soaking is complete, place the plastic bag back inside the box, place the box in a warm location out of direct sunlight, and spray the growing medium every day to keep the moisture and humidity at the proper levels. That's all there is to the setup.
Once the setup was done, the mini-farm was placed near a window and although the instructions warned to keep it away from direct sunlight, it's so chilly in our home during mid-March (55°) that the the sun's rays weren't a concern and we welcomed any solar power Mother Nature had to offer.
Lifting the flaps on the plastic bag in order to mist the spores was becoming annoying so after a few days I cut out the small square of plastic inside the mushroom box and put the entire box into a lightweight plastic produce bag. This made it easier to spray the growing medium.
After seven or eight days of spraying the mushrooms daily nothing had happened, so I figured either the indoor air was too cold and/or dry or the the spores were dead, and put the mushroom box on top of the refrigerator to be mixed into the compost pile. Two or three days later after no water and almost no light, I went to compost the mushrooms, and some of the spores had sprouted. What a surprise! The box was put back in the window and this time, if the sun came out full-force the mushrooms received some shade in the form of a wire cooling rack on top of a wire basket. Once the mushroom spores sprouted, they grew quickly. The image below shows the growth of the mushrooms in a one-week period:
The mini-mushroom farm yielded about two cups of mushrooms after 15 days of growth and and supposedly you can get a second crop of smaller mushrooms but we didn't try for a second crop; the entire contents after the initial mushroom harvest were added to the compost pile. The two cups of mushrooms were more than enough for topping two Swiss-cheese burgers, and would also have been more than sufficient for two mushroom omelettes.
The cooking process was kept simple so the taste of the mushrooms didn't get lost. The freshly harvested mushrooms were sauteed in a small amount of canola oil along with a good amount of butter, then some balsamic vinegar, and a few drops of Worstershire sauce. The picture of the cooked mushrooms didn't come out great, but they turned a lovely shade of burnt umber thanks to the balsamic and Worstershire. The mushrooms tasted terrific and would have been fine all on their own.
According to the Back to the Roots website, . . . The Mushroom Mini Farm is exclusively sold at Whole Foods, Home Depot, and Fresh Market locations nationwide . . ." but it looks like that info was posted back in 2011 and even the BTTR website only listed the large mushroom farm, not the mini-farm. I bought my kit at a brick and mortar Home Depot (for $15) but the kits don't appear to be listed on the HD website. It looks like that may be the case for the Whole Foods and Fresh Market stores as well. Amazon appears to be the only place that stocks both mushroom kits online. They have the Mushroom Farm Kit as well as the Mini-Farm Kit. Be sure to check for coupons, especially on the Mushroom Farm. The difference between the Mushroom Farm kit and the Mushroom Mini-Farm kit is the addition of a mister and a packet of heirloom tomato seeds with the Mushroom Farm kit.
Here's a video of the Mushroom Mini-Farm mushrooms: