This one time, I grew mushrooms

When I was a teenager, my sister asked me to look after her plants while she was away for two weeks.

With a lifetime of urban-dwelling ignorance to back me up, I assumed it would be easy.

I thought, You want me to take care of plants? How hard can that be? They just sit there. Yeah, um, I think I got this, sis.

I didn’t.

I forgot her instructions. I overwatered some and forgot to water others. The only thing that survived was the fish (he already had water).

When she returned, my sister was far from pleased to see that more than half of her beloved plants had shriveled away under my inattentive care.

Several years later, when I found a temporary sublet to help me transition from Utah to San Francisco, I called my sis to share the great news.

“Guess what sis? I found a place to live for six weeks while I figure out where I will work! Part of the agreement is that I keep the plants in the apartment watered while I am there. Isn’t that awesome?”

Her response?

“Does he know you suck at taking care of plants?”

Her jab quickly deflated my sense of excitement and I bitterly ended the call to call my Mom instead (she thinks everything I do is awesome!).

But my sister was right. I didn’t have the best track record for keeping plants alive. I needed to actually follow the instructions and be mindful of the plants.

Luckily this time, I was able to keep the plants green after a few weeks.

It was a small, perhaps silly victory, but it was important to me because I proved to myself and my sister that I could keep something alive.

(I’m going to be such a great mom someday!)

For now, I’m gaining experience by growing mushrooms instead. I’m developing proof that not only can I keep plants alive — I can also grow mushrooms, organisms so closely related to humans that it almost counts — before actual little humans are in my care.

I know what you’re thinking, and YES, I totally just compared children to mushrooms, because they’re kiiiiind of the same thing. Think about it — they both grow up so fast, some will get you sick, some stink — especially in their transition to adulthood — and some even like to play in poop…

But any way, back to the point. I wanted to share with you a time when I didn’t suck at growing something. I totally ruled at it.

And maybe that’s because I bought a mushroom kit from Back to the Roots backed by a 100% guarantee it will grow — but hey, everyone starts somewhere!

Here’s a little slideshow of the process. Check out fast they grow!

Day 1

The mushroom farm arrived in a box filled with substrate made from coffee grounds (these kinds of mushrooms don’t play with poop) inoculated with a strain to grow oyster mushrooms. All I needed to do was water it and find a nice temperate spot to keep it in.

When you first open it, it’s no more than a box with dirt and weird fuzzy white stuff called mycelium. Mushrooms would eventually appear from these mycelial “roots”.

Day 4

The first three days consisted of tw0-a-day spritzing with no visible changes.

Then Day 4 revealed these teeny tiny, almost picturesque baby caps in the middle of the box. They look as if they were poking their little heads out to see if it was safe to come out and play.

Day 5

The tiny mushroom caps must have told their friends to come out and play too, because they doubled in size and four more crops also popped up in other areas of the box. I couldn’t believe how big they were already!

Day 6

Ze babies are no longer babies! The babies morphed overnight into teenagers, growing quickly and pushing each other out of the way to show the world what they’re made of.

Day 7

After just a week, these young adults appeared, looking more like the oyster mushrooms I’d seen before. You can tell I was a little excited that morning by the exclamation point I added to the label.

Underneath the caps were lined with dark rings and the little gills were opening, ready to disperse a new generation of oyster mushroom babies into the world.

Day 8

By Day 8, the nearly matured mushrooms doubled in cap size!

Day 9

After only nine days, the mushrooms were trying to have babies of their own.

You can see this one deposited little mushroom potentials right on to the chair where they were growing. The spores look a lot like dust, and they’ll cling to your finger if you touch it, in the same way dust will.

Ps. I totally admit scrubbing my hands and washing the chair after I saw the spores, because although it was exciting, I was a little worried about microscopic spores floating around in my house (which according one of BTR’s Community Happyness Guru’s, is totally harmless).

Day 10: Ready for Harvest

By day 10, the mushrooms were ready to be trimmed, cleaned and eaten.

In my opinion, the best meals are shared, so I got together with some of my favorite people for a potluck and made mushroom tacos topped off my friend’s amazing homemade mole sauce. It was delish!

And for those who try it too — once the first crop is harvested, you can grow more mushrooms or use it to plant more stuff to eat, like the seeds for heirloom tomatoes they give you with the kit.

So not only can plant-challenged individuals like me grow something, you can do it more than once! Look at me now, sis!

Next time I’m adding the leftovers to more substrate and growing twice as many. Who’s with me?