A gourmet mushroom starter kit is being added to the mix of seeds and seedlings in Thunder Bay's Good Gardening Box.

The box sells for $60, with $20 as a donation to the Good Food Box, a local food security initiative run by the Northwestern Ontario Women's Centre.

The box includes five heirloom tomato seedlings grown by local volunteer growers, vegetable seeds from Superior Seed Producers and heirloom seed potatoes and strawberry plants from Belluz Farms, along with the Northwest Gourmet Mushrooms starter kit.

"For actually a fairly minimal price you're getting quite a good yield of local products, which is the best way to get nutrients," said Ryan Tarabocchia, the owner of Northwest Gourmet Mushrooms.

He said the myth that mushrooms need manure and darkness to grow isn't true of his gourmet mushrooms. Tarabocchia said he grows a variety of oyster mushrooms and is looking to expand into Shiitake mushrooms soon.

Starter kit begins as sawdust

The starter kit being offered in the gardening box begins as a small bag of digested sawdust.

"When you get it to your house, you just cut a hole in it," Tarabocchia said.

"You're supposed to spray it three or four times a day just on the counter in enough light to read is good enough and within seven to 10 days you should get your first crop growing," he continued.

That may seem like a short amount of time, but Tarabocchia emphasized that mushrooms grow exceptionally fast, even tripling their size in one day.

The kit will provide two to three crops of the freshest mushrooms you've ever tasted, Tarabocchia said. After that, it can be thrown in your garden to nourish the soil to grow other plants.

You can order your Good Gardening Box by contacting the Northwestern Ontario Women's Centre. Pick up is on May 25.