The lithe bodies proved easy to kill, which was a surprise blessing given how quickly they’d spawned. I slashed at their necks with kitchen shears, wrapped the bodies in paper towels, and stashed them in the fridge.

Such were the horrors I’d unknowingly set myself up for when I purchased a Back To The Roots oyster mushroom-growing kit. The bag, filled with recycled coffee grounds inoculated with the creatures’ spores, had certainly sounded innocent enough. Looked innocent enough, too.

I’d followed the instructions, cutting open the packaging and soaking everything overnight. I plunked the grounds back in the flimsy cardboard box and dutifully misted them twice a day.

And then they came.

Slowly, at first. In fact, the first several days the spores didn’t seem to be doing much at all. Then, one morning about a week later, I noticed signs of life. Tiny nubbins.

This was exciting.

By midafternoon, though, the nubs were reedy spires. By the next day, stalks. By lunchtime, the monstrous, menacing capped things threatened to take over the box.

For the next half day, every time I fetched a cup of coffee or placed a dirty dish in the sink, I glanced fearfully toward the box, not sure what I’d find but half expecting to be strangled by a fungus gone mad.

Once they began growing, the mushrooms were nearly impossible to stop. I fought them off bravely, mustering the courage to sever their necks with a steak knife. The instructions claimed we could grow yet another crop by soaking the bag a second time and repeating the process. I didn’t soak.

They grew back anyway.

In an attempt to slow the inexorable proliferation, I put the box in the refrigerator and escaped that cursed place for a few weeks, assuming the mushrooms would die or at least go into hibernation. Upon my return, the alien beasts were not dead. Sealed within an icy coffin, the creatures had grown still bigger. I imagined the fungi forcing open the fridge door, mycelia snaking across the floor, spores plopping from hymenia, growing, and growing, and growing….

Out came the kitchen shears. But I don’t know what will become of me if this continues. I can’t fight them off forever. Soon I’ll weaken. Rations are running out….

In the meantime, it’s a darn good thing oyster mushrooms taste so darn good sautéed in butter.

A mushroom-growing kit from Back to the Roots will produce up to 11/2 pounds of oyster mushrooms from recycled coffee grounds in a terrifyingly short amount of time, guaranteed, or the company will send you a replacement kit. Just follow the instructions and prescribed watering times and you, too, will see that growing them is stupid-easy. (It’s best to eat ’em quick. Safer that way.) Beware, though. At $19.95, the kit isn’t more economical than buying already-harvested mushrooms at your local grocer’s. But then, this isn’t about coupon-clipping. This is about the experience. The terrifying, terrifying experience.

About Rachel Kaufman

Rachel Kaufman is a freelance writer and editor. When she’s not copyediting or writing for Leite’s, she writes about robots, space exploration, and spiders that give each other backrubs—seriously. She can be found at

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  1. Ohhh Boy! I can not wait to order ours! This is exiting to me as we eat mushrooms @ least 3 times a week. We are lucky to live in a region that Morals grow. We have such fun every spring foraging for “Hickory Chickens” as they are called round these parts.

    I had heard of mushroom growing kitS. I had checked several out on line they all seemed a bit complicated. This looks easy as … Mushroom pie! Thanks for the review!

  2. Interesting product. I just linked and visited site. The fish aquarium growing herbs is interesting, also.