The Essential Guide to Growing Psilocybin Mushrooms
(Magic mushrooms, Shrooms, psilocybin)
[3-(2-Dimethylaminoethyl)-1H-indol-4-yl] dihydrogen phosphate
More and more people are growing psilocybin mushrooms at home. As well as providing a reliable, year-round supply, home cultivation eliminates the risk of misidentifying mushrooms in the wild. For many growers, it’s also a fun, relatively low-cost hobby.
If you’ve never grown mushrooms before, you might be tempted to start with a psilocybin mushroom grow kit. These ready-to-use packs contain a living mycelium substrate (the material underlying mushroom growth) that, in theory, you just need to keep humid.
In reality, you’re better off starting from scratch. Making your own substrate is not only more consistent but, if you do it right, it should be less prone to contamination as well. There’s also not a huge difference in price and you’ll end up learning a lot more.
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This guide is based on Robert “Psylocybe Fanaticus” McPherson’s eponymous PF Tek—the method that revolutionized psilocybin mushroom cultivation. McPherson’s key innovation was to add vermiculite to a grain-based substrate (as opposed to using grain alone), giving the mycelium more space to grow and mimicking natural conditions. Although his method is a little more labor-intensive than others, often for a lower yield, its simplicity, low cost, and reliability makes it ideally suited to beginners. It also makes use of readily available materials and ingredients, many of which you may already have.
The one thing you might have trouble getting is a good spore syringe; this will contain your spores and be used to “sow” them into the substrate. Some growers have reported issues of contamination, misidentified strains, and even syringes containing nothing but water. However, as long as you do your research and find a reputable supplier, you shouldn’t have any problems.
In any case, after you’ve grown your first batch (or flush) of mushrooms, you can start filling syringes of your own (see part 4).
The first thing you’ll need to do is decide on a species and strain. Most suppliers offer a range to choose from, but the Psilocybe cubensis, Golden Teacher and B+ strains are generally best for beginners. While not as potent as others, such as Penis Envy, they’re relatively forgiving of suboptimal and changeable conditions.
What You Will Need02
- Spore syringe, 10-12 cc
- Organic brown rice flour
- Vermiculite, medium/fine
- Drinking water
- 12 Shoulderless half-pint jars with lids (e.g. Ball or Kerr jelly or canning jars)
- Hammer and small nail
- Measuring cup
- Mixing bowl
- Heavy duty tin foil
- Large cooking pot with tight lid, for steaming
- Small towel (or approx. 10 paper towels)
- Micropore tape
- Clear plastic storage box, 50-115L
- Drill with 1/4-inch drill bit
- Mist spray bottle
- Rubbing alcohol
- Butane/propane torch lighter
- Surface disinfectant
- Air sanitizer
- Sterilized latex gloves (optional)
- Surgical mask (optional)
- Still air or glove box (optional)
The basic PF Tek method is pretty straightforward: Prepare your substrate of brown rice flour, vermiculite, and water, and divide it between sterile glass jars. Introduce spores and wait for the mycelium to develop. This is the network of filaments that will underpin your mushroom growth. After four to five weeks, transfer your colonized substrates, or “cakes”, to a fruiting chamber and wait for your mushrooms to grow.
NOTE: Always ensure good hygiene before starting: spray an air sanitizer, thoroughly disinfect your equipment and surfaces, take a shower, brush your teeth, wear clean clothes, etc. You don’t need a lot of space, but your environment should be as sterile as possible. Opportunistic bacteria and molds can proliferate in conditions for growing mushrooms, so it’s crucial to minimize the risk.
STEP 1: PREPARATION
1) Prepare jars:
- With the hammer and nail (which should be wiped with alcohol to disinfect) punch four holes down through each of the lids, evenly spaced around their circumferences.
2) Prepare substrate:
- For each jar, thoroughly combine 2/3 cup vermiculite and 1/4 cup water in the mixing bowl. Drain excess water using the disinfected strainer.
- Add 1/4 cup brown rice flour to the bowl and combine with the moist vermiculite.
3) Fill jars:
- Being careful not to pack too tightly, fill the jars to within a half-inch of the rims.
- Sterilize this top half-inch with rubbing alcohol
- Top off your jars with a layer of dry vermiculite to insulate the substrate from contaminants.
4) Steam sterilize:
- Tightly screw on the lids and cover the jars with tin foil. Secure the edges of the foil around the sides of the jars to prevent water and condensation getting through the holes.
- Place the small towel (or paper towels) into the large cooking pot and arrange the jars on top, ensuring they don’t touch the base.
- Add tap water to a level halfway up the sides of the jars and bring to a slow boil, ensuring the jars remain upright.
- Place the tight-fitting lid on the pot and leave to steam for 75-90 minutes. If the pot runs dry, replenish with hot tap water.
Note: Some growers prefer to use a pressure cooker set for 60 minutes at 15PSI
5) Allow to cool:
- After steaming, leave the foil-covered jars in the pot for several hours or overnight. They need to be at room temperature before the next step.
STEP 2: INOCULATION
1) Sanitize and prepare syringe:
- Use a lighter to heat the length of your syringe’s needle until it glows red hot. Allow it to cool and wipe it with alcohol, taking care not to touch it with your hands.
- Pull back the plunger a little and shake the syringe to evenly distribute the spores.
Note: If your spore syringe and needle require assembly before use, be extremely careful to avoid contamination in the process. Sterilized latex gloves and a surgical mask can help, but the surest way is to assemble the syringe inside a disinfected still air or glove box.
2) Inject spores:
- Remove the foil from the first of your jars and insert the syringe as far as it will go through one of the holes.
- With the needle touching the side of the jar, inject approximately 1/4 cc of the spore solution (or slightly less if using a 10 cc syringe across 12 jars).
- Repeat for the other three holes, wiping the needle with alcohol between each.
- Cover the holes with micropore tape and set the jar aside, leaving the foil off.
- Repeat the inoculation process for the remaining jars, sterilizing your needle with the lighter and then alcohol between each.
STEP 3: COLONIZATION
1) Wait for the mycelium:
- Place your inoculated jars somewhere clean and out of the way. Avoid direct sunlight and temperatures outside 70-80 °F (room temperature).
- White, fluffy-looking mycelium should start to appear between seven and 14 days, spreading outward from the inoculation sites.
Note: Watch out for any signs of contamination, including strange colors and smells, and dispose of any suspect jars immediately. Do this outside in a secure bag without unscrewing the lids. If you’re unsure about whether a jar is contaminated, always err on the side of caution—even if the substrate is otherwise healthily colonized—as some contaminants are deadly for humans.
- After three to four weeks, if all goes well, you should have at least six successfully colonized jars. Leave for another seven days to allow the mycelium to strengthen its hold on the substrate.
STEP 4: PREPARING THE GROW CHAMBER
1) Make a shot gun fruiting chamber:
- Take your plastic storage container and drill 1/4-inch holes roughly two inches apart all over the sides, base, and lid. To avoid cracking, drill your holes from the inside out into a block of wood.
- Set the box over four stable objects, arranged at the corners to allow air to flow underneath. You may also want to cover the surface under the box to protect it from moisture leakage.
Note: The shot gun fruiting chamber is far from the best design, but it’s quick and easy to build and does the job well for beginners. Later, you may want to try out alternatives.
2) Add perlite:
- Place your perlite into a strainer and run it under the cold tap to soak.
- Allow it to drain until there are no drips left, then spread it over the base of your grow chamber.
- Repeat for a layer of perlite roughly four to five inches deep.
STEP 5: FRUITING
1) “Birth” the colonized substrates (or “cakes”):
- Open your jars and remove the dry vermiculite layer from each, taking care not to damage your substrates, or “cakes”, in the process.
- Upend each jar and tap down onto a disinfected surface to release the cakes intact.
2) Dunk the cakes:
- Rinse the cakes one at a time under a cold tap to remove any loose vermiculite, again taking care not to damage them.
- Fill your cooking pot, or another large container, with tepid water and place your cakes inside. Submerge them just beneath the surface with another pot or similar heavy item.
- Leave the pot at room temperature for up to 24 hours for the cakes to rehydrate.
3) Roll the cakes:
- Remove the cakes from the water and place them on a disinfected surface.
- Fill your mixing bowl with dry vermiculite.
- Roll your cakes one by one to fully coat them in vermiculite. This will help to keep in the moisture.
4) Transfer to grow chamber:
- Cut a tin foil square for each of your cakes, large enough for them to sit on without touching the perlite.
- Space these evenly inside the grow chamber.
- Place your cakes on top and gently mist the chamber with the spray bottle.
- Fan with the lid before closing.
5) Optimize and monitor coniditions:
- Mist the chamber around four times a day to keep the humidity up, taking care not to soak your cakes with water.
- Fan with the lid up to six times a day, especially after misting, to increase airflow.
Note: Some growers use fluorescent lighting set on a 12-hour cycle, but indirect or ambient lighting during the day is fine. Mycelium only needs a little light to determine where the open air is and where to put forth mushrooms.
STEP 6: HARVESTING
1) Watch for fruits:
- Your mushrooms, or fruits, will appear as tiny white bumps before sprouting into “pins.” After five to 12 days, they’ll be ready to harvest.
2) Pick your fruits:
- When ready, cut your mushrooms close to the cake to remove. Don’t wait for them to reach the end of their growth, as they’ll begin to lose potency as they mature.
Note: The best time to harvest mushrooms is right before the veil breaks. At this stage, they’ll have light, conical-shaped caps and covered gills.
Psilocybin mushrooms tend to go bad within a few weeks in the fridge. So if you plan to use them for microdosing or you just want to save them for later, you’ll need to think about storage. The most effective method for long-term storage is drying. This should keep them potent for two to three years as long as they’re kept in a cool, dark, dry place. If they’re stored in the freezer, they’ll pretty much last indefinitely.
The lo-fi way to dry your mushrooms is to leave them out on a sheet of paper for a few days, perhaps in front of a fan. The problem with this method is they won’t get “cracker dry.” That is, they won’t snap when you try to bend them, which means they’ll still retain some moisture. They may also significantly diminish in potency, depending on how long you leave them out. Using a dehydrator is by far the most efficient method, but those can be expensive. A good alternative is to use a dessicant as follows:
- Air dry your mushrooms for 48 hours, ideally with a fan.
- Place a layer of dessicant into the base of an airtight container. Readily available dessicants include silica gel kitty litter and anhydrous calcium chloride, which you can purchase from hardware stores.
- Place a wire rack or similar set-up over the dessicant to keep your mushrooms from touching it.
- Arrange your mushrooms on the rack, ensuring they’re not too close together, and seal the container.
- Wait for a few days, then test to see if they’re cracker dry.
- Transfer to storage bags (e.g. ZipLoc, vacuum sealed) and place in the freezer.
REUSING THE SUBSTRATE
After your first flush, the same cakes can be re-used up to three times. Simply dry them out for a few days and repeat Step 5.2 (dunking). But don’t roll them in the vermiculite; just place them back in the grow chamber and mist and fan as before. When you start to see contaminants (usually around the third re-use), drench the cakes with the mister spray and dispose of them outside in a secure bag.
MAKING SPORE SYRINGES
Filling your own spore syringes is about as self-sufficient as it gets.
First, you’ll need to take a spore print from a mature mushroom, i.e. one that’s been allowed to grow until its cap has opened out and the edges are upturned. You should also notice an accumulation of dark purple deposits around it. These are the spores.
To collect them, remove the cap with a flame-sterilized scalpel and place it gills down on a sterile paper sheet. Cover with a disinfected glass or jar to protect it from the air and leave for 24 hours. Keep the resulting spore print out of light in an airtight plastic bag.
To load a syringe, scrape some of the spore print into a sterile glass of distilled water. Then fill your syringe (which should also be sterile) and empty it back into the glass several times to evenly distribute the spores. Fill it a final time and place it inside an airtight plastic bag. Leave at room temperature for a few days to allow the spores to hydrate. You can then keep the syringe in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. It should last at least two months.
ADAPTATIONS AND ALTERNATIVES
Numerous modifications have been made to the PF Tek, both to increase yield and to make things easier. Different species also tend to produce better with different substrates and conditions.
The main alternative to the basic PF Tek is the monotub method, which involves growing in bulk on coir (coconut fiber extract). Eventually you may want to experiment with some of these other methods, but the PF Tek is a good introduction for now.
For support and advice throughout the growing process, visit shroomery.org