Back to the Roots Grow Your Own Mushroom Garden Kit
Back to the Roots Grow Your Own Mushroom Garden Kit lets you grow up to 1 1/2 lbs of gourmet, tasty oyster mushrooms in as little as 10 days...right from the box! Amaze your kids and delight your taste buds! Recycled coffee ground inside act as the soil; just mist twice a day and watch nature do its thing. Back to the Roots' Mushroom Garden lets you grow up to one and a half pounds of tasty oyster mushrooms right out of the little brown box. Harvest multiple crops!
- Grow up to 1 1/2 lbs of tasty pearl oyster mushrooms
- Multiple crops (at least 2, though some have got up to 4!)
- Grow your first crop in as little as 10 days!
- Just 3 Easy Steps - Open, Mist, and Harvest (spray mister included).
- All indoors - just set on a kitchen window sill and mist twice a day (mister included)
- The soil inside is 100% recycled coffee grounds - safe & sustainable
- 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora during their last semester at UC Berkeley in 2009. Two months away from graduation, and heading into the corporate world of investment banking & consulting, they came across the idea during a class lecture of being able to potentially grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages & fresh, local food, they experimented in Alex's fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of tasty oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. With that one bucket, some initial interest from Whole Foods & Chez Panisse and a $5,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation, they decided to forget the corporate route, and instead, become full-time urban mushroom farmers!
Inspired by the idea of producing local, fresh food from what was an urban waste stream, Back to the Roots has since grown to create the Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden which lets anyone, across the country, grow their own gourmet mushrooms at home as well!
In 2011, Back to the Roots is on pace to collect, divert & reuse 1 million lbs of coffee grounds from Peet's Coffee & Tea. They've also begun collecting the waste from Hodo Soy (spent tofo / okara waste); Linden Street Brewery (spent grains & hops) and Numi Tea (spent tea leaves)!
All this organic waste, when just dumped into the landfill decomposes to produce hundreds of thousands of tons of methane gas in their atmosphere, a greenhouse gas about 25x worse than carbon dioxide for their environment.
Back to the Roots has helped create and sustain urban gardens in their community with their donations of the Premium Soil Amendment and mushroom kits. From local non-profit urban gardens, to school programs, to community spaces they believe in supporting the local & grow-it-at-home food movements with all they have!
Creating Local Jobs
Back to the Roots is committed to creating jobs where the matter most – right here in our city centers. They're passionate about the local, urban farming model that they've implemented and believe a key part of that is hiring locally as well. So far, they've created 14 green-collar, urban jobs in Oakland are excited to continue to build their team right from their community as they grow!
Welcome to the Back to the Roots Kids Corner! If there's one thing they learned right away after they started Back to the Roots, it's that kids love watching plants grow ...but don't want to wait 90 days for it! We quickly saw that 10 days though was a whole different experience...almost like magic!
What started off as the Back to the Roots' co-founders, Alex and Nikhil, doing a few school sustainability workshops and tours of their urban mushroom farm, has turned into a passion to educate and inspire kids on what the words "green", "sustainable" and "fresh food" actually mean...through this fun mushroom kit!
The Beginnings - Back to the Roots
They were fourth years at UC Berkeley. Both of us had offers in corporate America. Investment banking and consulting seemed to be the futures waiting for us after graduation. All that changed one day after listening to a lecture in one of their business ethics courses where they first heard about the idea that gourmet mushrooms can be grown entirely on recycled coffee grounds.
They could really do something with this idea: they discussed the possibilities. America is absolutely addicted to coffee. The world production of coffee is nearly 7 million tons a year. Only 1% ends up in the cup, while 99% ends up in the land fill. The possibility of diverting this waste stream, a negative externality, into something of value, gourmet mushrooms, was something they just couldn't let go. As the weeks went by, they really dove into first seeing if they could actually grow mushrooms from coffee grounds, and then seeing if this idea could work as the basis of a full scale social venture.
The first plan of action was definitely an interesting experience. They went around to local coffee shops collecting used coffee grounds. Out of the 10 buckets of the mushrooms they planted, only one grew. In that one bucket, they saw potential. They took that batch to the local Berkeley Whole Foods, and the team members they showed it to took a real interest. They created a plan and submitted their business proposal to "Bears Breaking Boundaries," an entrepreneurial competition sponsored by the UC Berkeley Chancellor to provide $5,000 in initial funding for a ground breaking project. And that's really the story of how they got started, giving up the corporate titles to carry a new one: "the mushroom guys."
At its heart, BTTR Ventures (pronounced Better) stands for "back to the roots," a phrase that encompasses the idea of creating a company that stands for sustainability, innovation, and social responsibility. What is so unique about Back to the Roots is its completely closed loop system. They first utilized a large waste stream to produce something of value: gourmet oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms were harvested and sold across NorCal. The coffee grounds, enriched by the mushroom growth, turned into premium soil amendment that was then donated to local nurseries and urban farms, giving back to the community from which they gather the coffee grounds from.
Since they launched in 2009, they have diverted and transformed over 50,000 pounds of coffee grounds into a rich soil for local, healthy food and have grown 7,500 pounds of delicious gourmet mushrooms sold at all Nor Cal Whole Foods Markets. Starting off as purely an urban mushroom farm, Back to the Roots has transformed into an eco-centered company dedicated to bringing fresh, sustainably grown food straight to the home through their grow-at-home mushroom kits: the Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Garden . Their vision is to serve as a standard bearer for innovation and responsibility in their community in order to inspire others to work towards a more sustainable future. They're happy to be pursuing this vision first through their mushroom gardens!
Their Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Gardens, sold on their website, are packaged in post-consumer cardboard and printed on with soy ink, an environmentally better alternative. Their mushroom kits arrive in the mail ready to grow: they wanted to create a sustainable product that is easy and simple, so everyone can enjoy not only growing fresh, but also eating fresh. They really love the fact that when kids get involved with growing with their Mushroom Garden, they not only get exposed to sustainability but also get to experience growing their own foods. The Back to the Roots Mushroom Gardens yield up to one pound of delicious oyster mushroom in as little as 10 days, and can harvest as many as four crops. And while people worry about the taste of the mushrooms tasting like the coffee they grow from, plenty of chefs such as Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, can attest to their authentic nutty flavor.
Through their Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Garden, they hope to encourage people to go "Back to the Roots" of sustainability!
Frequently Asked Questions
About The Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Kit
What type of mushroom does the Back to the Roots Grow-Your-Own Mushroom kit grow?
The mushroom kit grows gourmet Pearl Oyster mushrooms. They’re commonly found in Europe and Asia, and are being used increasingly in lots of cuisines due to their delicate velvety texture, pleasantly smooth taste and highly-dense nutrient content. We are also currently working on offering a shiitake mushrooms kit, so stay tuned!
How are your mushroom kits more sustainable?
Mushrooms, specifically oyster and shiitake, are currently grown world-wide on wood chips. Unfortunately, these wood chips are often formed through the destruction of hardwood forests in much of the developing world. However, coffee grounds are a perfect substitute substrate on which to grow these mushrooms; more importantly, using this “coffee waste” soil bypasses many preparatory processes required when using wood, resulting in a more efficient mushroom yield. Thus, this “trash” is in fact a valuable substance that can help save oak forests, and eliminate waste! We're on track to redirect over 1 million lbs or recycled coffee grounds by the end of this year!
What are your mushroom kits made from?
We strive to be the best 'green' company we can be by making our kits with the most eco-friendly options! We are constantly striving to be leaders in innovation and sustainability: we are diversifying our waste stream collection and are beginning to use hops from Linden Street Brewery and soy castings from Hodo Soy! In addition to using coffee grounds our kits contain:
- Spawn: Pleurotus pulmonarius (the “seeds” of the oyster mushrooms)
- Recycled cardboard printed with soy ink, an environmentally friendly alternative
- Small Back to the Roots mister
The mushroom kits themselves are ready to grow upon purchase, growing up to 1.5 lbs in as little as 10 days! Be sure to check inside the kit for the mister, detailed instructions on how to get the best results, and recipes!
To take an indepth look at the process of how we make our kits, check out the video titled MillerCoors MUES!
What is the white layer covering the kits?
The white layer is completely harmless, and is in fact the roots of the mushroom called mycelia. The mycelia is what eventually fruit the oyster mushrooms!
What do Oyster mushrooms taste like? Do the mushrooms grown from your coffee taste at all like coffee?
Oyster mushrooms have a mild flavor which is very versatile when it comes to the foods they complement. They also have a delicate, velvety texture which works well in pastas, skewers, soups, salads and anything else you like to put mushrooms in! They taste amazing, especially when they’re so fresh, and can be eaten raw or cooked! Chefs such as Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse, have raved of the authentic nutty flavor, without any residual coffee taste!
Do the mushrooms have any caffeine?
No (unfortunately to many customers!). Mushrooms are fascinating as they actually break down the caffeine and turn it into carbohydrates.
What are the health benefits of oyster mushrooms?
Oyster mushrooms are extremely healthy, as one-third of their dry weight is protein. They also contain amino acids and enzymes that have been shown to boost the immune system, and are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B complex, and most of the mineral salts required by the human body. Calcium, phosphorous and iron content in oyster mushrooms are double the amount available in most meats. They are also known to lower cholesterol, and can boost the immune system and may even inhibit tumor growth.
Are the mushrooms organic?
At this point we are not certified organic, but we use a 100% natural process. A majority of the coffee grounds that we collect are organic, and our plan in the near future is to become a certified, completely organic company to further improve our sustainability.
The Growing Process
I don’t have a green thumb...how easy are the mushrooms to grow?As easy as 1) opening 2) misting and 3) harvesting… in just 10-15 days! It’s so easy, our main supporters are kids that are growing their own food!
How long can I store the kit before I need to start growing it?
The kit will stay fresh in the box for months before you have to start growing your mushrooms. Make sure you keep your kit in a relatively cool area/room that doesn’t receive any direct sunlight (i.e., closet, bedroom). After you open it, however, nature will start doing its thing and you'll have to start misting!
Where should I grow my kit?
One of the many amazing things about this kit is that you don’t need a huge garden! All you need is a window sill, perfect for you urban dwellers our there! Ideally, you want to grow your mushrooms indoors with indirect sunlight and fresh air. Indirect sunlight will help get the caps on the mushrooms to come out and grow to their full potential! Once you see some pinheads pop out, they're double in size each day!
What if I have a cat / dog?
None of our customers have reported that their pets have tried to eat the mushrooms as they are growing or that their pets have gotten sick. So if you're worried for you four legged friend, they'll be fine:)
I’m traveling for a few days; is it ok if I don’t water the kit?
We recommend that you continue to mist daily, but a trick to activate them if you skip or forget a couple days of misting (as long as you see no growth) is to soak the kit (out of the cardboard) in a water-filled bucket overnight… that should do the trick!
When should I 'harvest' the mushrooms?
You’ll want to let them grow until the largest 2-4 of the mushroom caps are 2-3 inches in diameter. Remember, they are living! So it won't be exact every time, but the mushroom caps should be white and plump, like the ones you'd buy at a grocery store! Try not to wait too long to see how big they'll get because they will dry out attached to the box! You can harvest your first batch usually after 10-15 days, and sometimes even earlier!
How do I 'harvest' the mushrooms?
You can just pluck them off with your hands (you don’t need scissors or a knife as they’ll come off easily!).
How long do the harvested mushrooms last for?
Since you’ve grown them yourself, you can store them for up to 2 weeks without them going bad. The amazing thing about this kit is that these gourmet mushrooms are rarely found in grocery stores because they are extremely delicate and have a short shelf-life (sometimes just days after they've hit the shelves!).
How do I store the harvested mushrooms?
Just store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator; most people think you should put mushrooms in a paper bag to absorb moisture, but that actually reduces the quality.
What should I do with my mushrooms after I finish growing them?
Eat them of course!:) We have a bunch of delicious mushrooms created by chefs and wonderful bloggers a like!
What if my mushrooms dry out?
We've gotten some tips from some of our customers that if you soak the mushrooms in water, they will plump back up and can be cooked as usual!
How many mushrooms will grow from the kit?
You should expect your first crop in about 10-15 days. Once the first crop has been harvested, you can turn the kit around and start your second crop on the backside (which should take you another ~15 days). We guarantee 2 full crops out of the kit or we'll send you a replacement bag, satisfaction guaranteed:) Many customers can also get a second crop on each side after harvesting, and we’ve had customers get up to 5-7 crops/kit depending on how well they've taken care of it (misting, and resoaking the bag between harvests)!
How do you know when nothing else will grow from the mushroom kit?
The kit should be completely white when you first initiate the growing process. But you’ll notice that after each crop the white roots will begin to look less white which basically means that the nutrients are being used up to grow the mushroom caps. After up to 1.5 lbs of mushrooms, most of the nutrients for growing mushrooms will be depleted.
Can I put my own coffee grounds in the kit to keep the spores going?
You can reinoculate the mycelium to your own coffee grounds, however, it is at your own risk as it may grow mold and yield less than favorable results.
What do I do after my Grow-Your-Own Mushroom kit after it's done growing mushrooms?
Once you’re done growing your mushrooms, you close the loop of sustainability by opening up your bag and putting your recycled coffee grounds in your garden, where they can break down further and become a rich base to help grow other plants! How cool is that?!
My kit grew a beautiful first crop but the second one hasn’t come in--what’s wrong?
If your second crop didn’t produce mushrooms or they were dry, what likely happened is that the kit dried out so you’ll actually want to soak the bag for 24hrs in a water-filled bucket (even if you’ve done so already).
Feel free to send Back to the Roots a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions...they guarantee all their kits! :)
What happens if my kit doesn’t grow?
Back to the Roots absolutely guarantee their product, so if you're kit isn't growing for any reason, please reach out to them: and they'll send you a new kit– they have a 24 hour response policy on every single email they receive and make customer service their utmost priority.
What does Back to the Roots stand for?
We wanted to take business "back to the roots" of how we think business should be done: providing a fun mushroom kit people can enjoy while helping out the environment! This company has transformed from an urban mushroom farm into a company offering products which allow you to become your very own farmer! We have always believed that our company should be dedicated to sustainability, with the 'roots' of our mushrooms:)
When did the company start?
Founded in 2009 by Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora as a 100% sustainable urban mushroom farm, BTTR (pronounced as 'better') has transformed into a unique company focused on bringing sustainable grow-at-home products into households across the country. Read more about our story here!
What is Back to the Roots working on now?
We are looking to diversify our waste stream collection! After moving warehouses to West Oakland, we found ourselves surrounded by opportunities, waste streams to be tapped! We have started collecting used hops from Linden Street Brewery, and used soy castings from our neighbor Hodo Soy! We are also working to create mushroom kits for other types of mushrooms, such as shiitake!
Do you have any other products?
Yep, They have a premium soil amendment that is available at the Whole Foods stores in Northern California, some local nurseries, and online. They will be offering replacement bags, as well as Back to the Roots merchandise...coming soon!
They are also currently looking into developing other sustainable products that will transform the way people grow their herbs, fruits and vegetables grown entirely out of waste.