Using a mushroom growing kit is one of the easiest and most effective ways to grow mushrooms at home. Mushroom grow kits are beginner friendly, requiring almost no special skills or tools. This allows new growers to learn what it’s like to grow mushrooms without diving too deep into the hobby.
So are these kits worth it?
Although I enjoy growing mushrooms from scratch, I still wanted to try out one of these kits myself to see how effective they really are.
I was definitely sceptical at first- but ended up having a great experience growing mushrooms from a kit, and think they are definitely worth a try for new growers.
What is a Mushroom Grow Kit
A mushroom growing kit is essentially a pre-colonized fruiting block which has not yet been exposed to the environmental conditions required to initiate fruiting. The fruiting block is typically contained in a mushroom grow bag, which can sit dormant for quite some time, especially if it is refrigerated.
You can buy grow kits for a variety of different types of mushrooms, although some species make for better kits than others.
One of the most common types of mushrooms you will find in a grow kit is Pleurotus ostreatus – the ordinary oyster mushroom. P. ostreatus is quite resilient to contamination, fruits easily and can grow on a number of different substrates.
It is rather tenacious and can fruit even in sub-optimal conditions, making it an excellent candidate for a kit. It also grows quickly, which increases the chances of success.
Most grow kits only require a few simple steps and minimal maintenance, although the chances of success and potential yield increase greatly if the mushroom block is prepared properly and placed in ideal conditions.
TRY GROWING MUSHROOMS
New to growing mushrooms?
Make your first grow successful with an easy to use kit! Three easy steps:
- Soak the kit in water.
- Scrape back some of the mycelium.
- Keep moist and near indirect light
Get your kit here!
Mushroom Grow Kit Review
The mushroom grow kit I decided to try was the Back to the Roots Mushroom Mini Farm. This particular kit grows Pearl Oyster Mushrooms – a tasty, fast growing mushroom that can withstand some neglect and still produce good results.
The kit itself it quite small, with the actual fruiting block weighing less than 2 lbs. With this low amount of substrate, I was not expecting a big yield- although the point of the kit is more to experience the process of growing mushrooms than for getting a huge harvest.
The fruiting block in a grow bag. The orange coloring is just a normal metabolite.
Full disclosure: I bought the kit from the grocery store and left it in the fridge for a number of months before I actually went to use it. I thought this might have an adverse affect on the kit, although as you will see, the results were still actually quite good.
Opening the box, you can see that the kit is a fully colonized fruiting block in a small grow bag. Back to the Roots says that the substrate is recycled organic material, although I can’t quite tell exactly what it is.
The block passed the initial sniff test, looking pretty good and smelling just like beautiful oyster mycelium should. There was quite a bit of orange metabolite in the bag, but this is not a contamination, and is usually nothing to worry about.
Cutting an “x” in the bag, looking at the mycelium
Unidentified organic substrate material with a bit of mycelium
Following the Instructions
The instructions are dead simple, and really seem to cater to new growers who are unaware of the terminology involved involved in growing mushrooms. Basically, scrape, soak and water- in other words, cut a hole in the bag and rough up the mycelium, soak in water and keep humid.
One minor gripe is that the kit refers to the mycelium as “soil” and although this is kind of a good analogy, it’s not at all accurate.
As per the instructions, I cut a small “x” in the front of the bag and scraped back some of the mycelium. This “roughing up” of the outer layer is thought to be helpful for initiating pinning of the mushroom.
I soaked the block face down in a bowl of water for 12 hours. The block floats, so if you wanted to, you could consider placing something heavy on top of the block to sink it. I opted to just let it float, in hopes of the block soaking up the water.
This is an important step. Mushroom fruiting bodies are up to 90% water, and pretty much all of that moisture needs to come from the fruiting block itself. If your mushroom block does not contain enough water, it will fail to fruit, or quickly abort pinning.
A fruiting block soaking in a bowl of water
Fruiting the Block
The third step in the instructions is “water”, and the kit instructs us to “sprinkle 2-3 teaspoons of water per day on the scraped area until mushrooms are fully formed.” Again, these are good instructions for those who are new to growing mushrooms, but essentially, the kit just needs to be placed in a humid environment with indirect light. This is no different than a typical fruiting environment used when growing mushrooms from scratch.
I opted to leave the bag out of the box and place the kit in a shotgun fruiting chamber. I am sure this kit can be grown on your countertop without the SGFC, and that is the intention of the kit. Also, Pearl Oysters are tenacious fruiters in general.
That being said, the chances of your block drying out and not fruiting at all are higher if you don’t place it in a controlled environment like a SGFC. Plus, shotgun fruiting chambers are easy to make and can be used for any future mushroom project.
The kit sitting in a SGFC, humid and bright, ready to fruit!
It took about 15 days before the first pins showed up. This was longer than expected. It may be because the block was left in the fridge for so long before use. Other than that, I am not sure why.
The SGFC was kept consistently humid, the light was indirect, and the temperature was between 16-19 deg C. I did not “spray” the block directly as was instructed, and it is possible that this delayed fruiting, although direct misting before pinning is not a technique I generally use.
Once the pins arrived, growth was quite quick – the mushrooms were ready for harvest only 7 days from the first site of a pin. Again, this rapid growth is quite common for Oyster mushrooms in general and Pearl Oysters in particular.
Pins starting to grow on the kit after 15 days in the SGFC.
Pins getting bigger, real fruitbodies starting to form
From fruiting to Harvest
During this time, the SGFC was misted and fanned twice per day and the fruits formed quickly.
For me, this is the best part about growing mushrooms.
Every morning you get to wake up and go look at your mushrooms. Often they will have doubled in size overnight.
It surprises and delights me every time.
Although the mushrooms did pin and fruit just fine, there was only three main fruiting bodies that emerged, and the kit failed to produce the cluster I was hoping for. You can never really predict what form your mushroom fruitbodies are going to take- which is part of the fun – but you always hope for a huge flush.
Still, the mushrooms that did grow were a nice looking bunch. The stems were a little fatter and longer, and the caps were a little smaller than I would have hoped. Typically with oysters, this is a sign of a lack of fresh air. Although I opened the lid of the SGFC on average twice a day to fan and mist, it probably would have helped to do it a little more often.
It really can’t be underestimated how much fresh air oysters need in order to form large capped clusters.
Once the oysters grew to a reasonable size, I decided to harvest them. The box says that they are ready to harvest once they stop doubling in size everyday, but this isn’t really the best indicator in my opinion.
With oyster mushrooms, the best time to harvest is usually right before the caps start to curl up. This indicates that they are ready to drop their spores, and once this happens, they are past their prime.
I probably harvested the oysters a tad early, but I was excited to try them out! Plus, oysters can go from too early to pick to past their prime in no time, so it’s better to be a little early than way late.
You can harvest the mushrooms by cutting them off the block at the base of the stem with a sharp knife. Try to get as much off as possible, especially if you are going for a second flush. Old dying stems left over on a fruiting block are common spots for contamination to get a foothold.
I only ended up getting 79 grams (just under 3 ounces) of fresh oyster mushrooms on the first flush. Even at that, a good amount of the weight was thick stem, which is quite chewy and usually tossed aside.
Although this seems low- and it kind of is- I was still pretty satisfied. The point of these kits is just to experience growing your own mushrooms at home in the easiest way possible- and in that respect the kit was a slam dunk.
Cooking the Mushrooms
Fresh, homegrown oyster mushrooms are delicious and better than anything you can get at the grocery store. There are a million ways that you can enjoy them. My favorite way is to simply fry them in a pan with butter, garlic, and a bit of pepper.
They fry up pretty quick, and loose a lot of size when cooking. As mentioned above, the cap is the best part of the oyster mushroom, as the thick stems can be chewy and not all that tasty. Your experience may be different though, so it may be worth giving the stem a try if you have never eaten it before.
I used these particular mushrooms to greatly improve a pizza, and yes- it was fantastic!
Using the Kit again for More Mushrooms
After you harvest the mushrooms, don’t throw out your block!
You could always try for a second or even third flush. Some people have reported more than 5 flushes from a single kit! All you have to do is soak your block again to rehydrate it, and then place it back in the fruiting environment. It will take a while for the mushrooms to pin again, you might have to wait up to two weeks.
It is always possible that it will contaminate as well, so keep an eye out for green mold. If it shows up, try to cut it off. If it gets overly moldy, then it’s time to throw it out. Some people have reported more than 5 flushes from a single kit!
Using the kit as Spawn
Since the mushroom grow kit is essentially just fully colonized substrate, you could always try and further expand the kit to grow way more mushrooms.
In other words, the kit can be used as spawn!
To do this, simply crumble the kit into tiny pieces of mycelium and add them to a properly prepared bulk substrate, such as pasteurized straw. The mycelium should continue, and start to colonize the new substrate. When you eventually fruit the log you will end up getting way more mushrooms, depending on how far you exapand the mycelia mass.
Keep in mind that, eventually, the mycelium will loose it’s ability to expand, but it should have no problem at least colonizing a 10-15 lb straw log.
Saving the Culture
You could also try to save the culture on agar in order to have a virtually endless supply of mushrooms. This is a little more complicated, but basically involves breaking off a piece of mycelium and growing it out on agar.
You may have to do a number of transfers before you have a clean culture, but eventually you should end up with a culture of pearl oyster that can be saved for years and used over and over.
Other Growing Kits
There are plenty of other options for growing kits online. Some are better than others. The back to roots kit seems to be the most popular- it’s small, cheap, and it definitely works.
Some other good options are the Fungi Perfecti kits, available here. Fungi Perfecti offers a little more variety, including Lions Mane and Reishi kits, and definitely deliver a good product.
They will be the same basic concept as the Back to the Roots kits, basically a fully colonized fruiting block ready for fruiting. Keep in mind that different varieties of mushrooms will be available at different times.
Should You Try a Kit?
If you have any interest in growing mushrooms at all, and you aren’t ready to do it from scratch, then most definitely yes- you should try a kit! It will give you an idea of how mushrooms grow, and what requirements they need in order to fruit properly.
Even if you never plan on mycology as a hobby, growing mushrooms from a kit is fun enough and easy enough that anyone even remotely interested in gardening or growing food will get a lot of joy out of a mushroom kit.
It’s just fun. I highly recommend a kit!
Thanks for reading. If you have any experience with growing mushrooms from a kit, I would love to hear about it!
-spread the spores-