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Mushrooms in a Box

Grow your own pearl oyster mushrooms.


Think mushrooms need rain and redwoods to grow? Not anymore. The Back to the Roots mushroom kit yields more than 1.5 pounds of pearl oyster mushrooms in 10 days. The secret ingredient? Used coffee grounds.

Nikhil Arora and Alex Velez hatched the idea in a UC Berkeley business class, months before they had planned to join the corporate world. That plan got nixed when the Chez Panisse staff tasted the mushrooms.

“They chopped them up, sautéed them, and said they we’re delicious,” Arora says. “We
said ‘Forget banking; let’s start mushroom farming.’ ”

The young entrepreneurs use 20,000 pounds of waste coffee grounds from Peet’s Coffee & Tea every week—one million pounds a year—to make the soil mix.

The kits, now sold in Whole Foods markets nationwide, are not only environmentally friendly, they’re fun. Around day five, I found a patch of tiny gray caps bubbling from my box. A few days later, they, well, mushroomed in full force.

I sliced the mushrooms, threw them in a pan, and then piled them on my pizza. They tasted salty, tender, and, remarkably, coffee-free. In one word: delicious. $20, backtotheroots.com



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