When Organic Authority editor Laura Klein offered me the chance to try a product that grows pearl oyster mushrooms from a box of recycled coffee grounds right on your kitchen countertop, I was nothing short of stoked. What food writer wouldn't jump on the chance to grow gourmet mushrooms out of composted waste and create recipes with the harvest? I had ten days to grow my mushrooms from a box of, well, garbage, and turn them into a meal of organic savories. How did it turn out? Read on.
When I first received the mushroom kit from Back to the Roots, I must have scratched my head for a good five minutes; frankly, I was confused. The directions on the side of the cardboard box were less than clear: Cut a slit in the bag? On the top of the bag, or on the side? I figured it out in good time, and pretty soon I had my bag of organic waste slit, nestled within my cardboard growing box, and misted plentifully with water to kick start the fungal growth.
I was almost positive that I had done something wrong. Three, four days passed, and still nothing was sprouting out from the dampened, multi-colored organic compost in the box. Had I cut the wrong size slit, or on the wrong side of the bag, after all? Patience, little mushroom, patience. On the fifth day, I walked into the kitchen to give my box its morning mist, and suddenly there it was: a blooming overgrowth of tiny fungi!
Indeed, it takes almost a full week for the mushrooms to sprout from the kit, but when they do, they explode. The look of it is nothing short of crazy. I must have texted cell phone pics of the exploding mushrooms to at least five people that day. But, again, patience, little mushroom, patience. The mushrooms still need a few more days to grow before they are full and ready for the picking.
I let my mushrooms go about 11 days in total before I decided to harvest. I carefully snipped them out of the coffee soil, wiped them with a damp cloth, and wasted no time before I got to cooking.
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Fresh oyster mushrooms (i.e. just clipped from the soil) are a thing of culinary rarity, and they shouldn't be ruined with excessive flavors, ingredients or cooking techniques. Simplest is always best to let their buttery, sweet flavors shine through. I snipped fresh parsley from my herb garden and snagged a bottle of robust olive oil and a small lemon. Within five minutes, my gourmet pearl oyster mushroom meal was complete: Seared mushrooms with a tart, savory sauce and speckled with bright parsley, seasoned amply with sea salt and pepper. Sheer perfection.
I've since flipped the mushroom kit over and have begun growing the other side of the bag (the company says you can get up to four rounds of mushrooms from each kit). It's been about four days so far, and, not unlike the first time around, there is no growth yet. But I mist it daily, tell myself to have patience, little mushroom, and await the next delicious harvest.
Seared Oyster Mushrooms with Lemon-Parsley
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ pound fresh oyster mushrooms, wiped clean, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 small lemon, juiced
Splash of sherry or white wine, optional
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and absorb it again, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes total. Season well. Add parsley, lemon juice and wine; cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
Images by Kimberley Stakal
Disclosure: This product was supplied as a complimentary product for the review; no other compensation from Back to the Roots was received.