Three Mushroom Growing Techniques
- Author Jeff Leboweski
- Published November 4, 2020
- Word count 2,193
Growing Psilocybe mushrooms is a potentially illegal activity depending upon your location. We do not encourage or condone contravention of the law, however what is legal is not always what is right. Perceptions around Psilocybe mushrooms are fast-changing, and laws have already been amended in several prominent American cities. Unfortunately, until the sale of mushrooms is regulated, the safest (and most cost effective) way to acquire them is by growing them yourself. For that reason, we at Spores Lab designed this guide to describe the most popular methods for cultivation of Psilocybe mushrooms.
Psilocybin mushrooms have been revered by several cultures for thousands of years. These mind-altering mushrooms grow naturally in a wide geographic range, and some species (like Psilocybe cubensis) are relatively easy to cultivate indoors. P. cubensis mushrooms are less mycorrhizal than most other Psilocybe species, and therefore can be cultured and grown in several grain-based mediums. There are even Egyptologists who theorize that ancient Egyptians cultivated P. cubensis mushrooms on barley grain!
Since cubensis mushrooms grow in a variety of mediums, they are undoubtedly the most widespread and commonly found species in the Psilocybe genus. However, they are also one of the least potent species. Mycologists (those who study fungi) around the world have developed several different “techniques” (nicknamed “Teks”) to cultivate cubensis mushrooms. Each Tek has strengths and drawbacks, and which one you choose to follow will likely depend on the amount of mushrooms that you want to grow and how much you are willing to invest in necessary equipment.
Before we begin to explore the different Teks, you should be familiar with the mushroom life cycle and some common mushroom terminology. Here is a brief overview of the mushroom life cycle under natural conditions:
If mushroom spores are successfully dispersed in an environment with sufficient nutrients and specific environmental conditions, they will germinate and begin to grow and form what is called mycelium.
Mycelium consists of a mass of branching root-like strands and each strand has a single cell thick, called hyphae. Mycelium can be described as the vegetative portion of a fungus (where all of the nutrients and energy are put towards growth instead of gene propagation). Mushroom mycelium will continue to grow and spread as long as nutrients are available, and as long as the environmental conditions are congruent with this stage of the mushroom life cycle. This part of the life cycle (where the mycelium is growing but no mushrooms are present) is often called spawning or colonization.
The next step in the mushroom life cycle happens once the mycelium has “colonized” (utilized most of the available nutrients). At this point, (under natural conditions) changes in environmental conditions (like temperature and humidity) will trigger the mycelium to switch from a spawning or colonization state to a fruiting state. It is in this fruiting state that mushrooms grow out of the mycelial mat, and mushrooms will continue to sprout until all available nutrients and moisture in the environment are used or environmental conditions are changed back to conditions congruent with the colonization status
In the modern era, most commercial Psilocybe mushroom cultivators use a grain based medium (oats/popcorn/rye/wheat/birdseed) to initially colonize mycelium in. They then add a fruiting substrate to provide additional nutrients, water, and a form for the mycelial culture to grow into.
A Note on Sterility
Regardless of which Tek one decides to use, Lab sterility is the most important protocol to adhere to during your cultivation process. This cannot be stressed enough. When growing mushrooms, one creates the ideal environment for fungi to grow. Unfortunately, this environment is also the ideal environment for bacteria or other unwanted species of Fungi to grow and spread. Therefore one must pay close attention to the sterility of surfaces one works on and the tools and materials used. It is always a good idea to have isopropyl alcohol and disinfectant on hand in the cultivation area so that one can properly sterilize surfaces and tools before performing mycology tasks. We recommend always using personal protective equipment (PPE) including surgical masks, gloves, and hairnets when in the cultivation space. We also recommend wearing clean, freshly-laundered clothes in the cultivation area and practicing good hygiene in general to reduce the chance of contamination.
Now without further ado, let’s get into some Teks! In this article, you will learn about three Teks - the PF Tek, the Spawn + Bulk Substrate Tek, and the Uncle Ben’s Tek.
First introduced in 1992, the PF Tek was developed by a cultivator named Robert McPherson and it is one of the simplest methods for growing Psilocybe mushrooms. This Tek is the best choice for the beginner cultivator since it requires relatively common tools and materials. This tek typically has a high success rate, and will supply a beginner cultivator with the basic skills, knowledge, and experience needed should he/she decide to pursue more complex Teks later on.
Materials Required for the PF Tek include:
-Brown Rice Flour
-Wide Mouth Glass Jars
-Pre-made Injection Port Lids or Regular Jar Lids, Micropore Tape and Aluminum Foil
-PPE (masks, gloves, hairnets)
The general process to complete the PF Tek involves a few steps, namely preparing the substrate, sterilizing the substrate, inoculating the substrate with a spore syringe, incubating the culture, birthing the culture, and fruiting.
Preparing the substrate involves mixing two parts vermiculite with one part distilled water THEN mixing in one part brown rice flour. One must then fill a clean glass jar with the prepared substrate, leaving about ½ an inch of room below the rim for dry vermiculite to act as a contamination barrier. Jars can then be sealed and placed in a pressure cooker for sterilization. Jars should be sterilized at 15PSI for 60 minutes. Once the pressure cooker has cooled down, one can inoculate his/her jars by injecting the contents of a spore syringe into the jars. The jars can then be left to incubate in a warm (73-78F), dark place until mycelial growth has completely covered the substrate.
At this point, the colonized substrate can be “birthed” out of the jar. Since the PF Tek uses brown rice flour as an ingredient in the substrate, the substrate should compact on its own, and come out of the jar quite easily. The final step of this Tek is to place one’s colonized substrate “cakes” in a relatively humid, warm (73-78F) environment, wait for the cakes to fruit, and harvest mushrooms as required.
This Tek is a simple and inexpensive Tek which makes it great for beginner cultivators. However, this Tek results in lower yields, smaller mushrooms, and more labour in relation to how much product it produces.
Spawn + Bulk Substrate Tek
The Spawn + Bulk Substrate Tek is an intermediate-advanced level Tek that involves taking a container that has been fully colonized with mycelium (the spawn) and adding a hydrated, high-nutrient fruiting substrate (bulking with substrate) - thereby producing a greater yield of mushrooms. This Tek requires several steps, including preparing/inoculating the spawn, preparing the substrate, inoculating the substrate with the spawn, and incubating the inoculated substrate.
Materials required for the Spawn + Bulk Tek include:
-Colonization medium (we recommend rye grain)
-Fruiting medium (we recommend ‘MYCO-PRO Fruit’)
-Glass Jars and Lids (colonization container)
-Inoculation port lids
-Large Plastic Tote with Lid (fruiting container)
-Micro Pore tape
To prepare spawn, begin by soaking the rye grain for 24hrs, adding the rye grain to the colonization container, sterilizing the rye grain, and then injecting the contents of the spore syringe into the colonization container. The container can then be left in a warm (73-78F), dark place until mycelial growth has completely covered the rye grain.
Next, to prepare the substrate, mix coconut coir, vermiculite, worm castings, Calcium Carbonate, peat moss and distilled water in a large tub until “field capacity” is reached. Field capacity simply means the medium is fully hydrated. Next, sterilize this medium in a pressure cooker for 120 minutes at 15PSI, or pasteurize in an oven at 180deg for 5 hours.
To inoculate the fruiting medium with your spawn, take the clean plastic tote and place it inside of a large garbage bag. Next examine each jar of spawn to ensure there is no contamination present, and combine the spawn with the sterilized/pasteurized fruiting medium at a ratio of 30% spawn to 70% fruiting medium. Mix the two mediums well, and lightly tamp the surface to make it as flat as possible. Then put a lid on the tray, and incubate in a warm (73-78F), dark place until the surface of the tray is completely white with mycelium. To trigger fruiting, one will simply have to adjust the humidity, O2/CO2 levels, and light schedule of the environment that the tray is in.
The Spawn + Bulk Substrate Tek involves more steps, requires more supplies, and therefore has a higher risk of contamination, however by combining the spawn with the extra water/nutrients in the fruiting medium, a higher volume of mixture is created, which results in higher yields. We recommend that only those that have some experience cultivating mushrooms attempt this Tek.
Uncle Ben’s Tek
One of the newest Teks that has been developed is the Uncle Ben’s Tek. This Tek is a great choice for beginner cultivators as it requires minimal materials, is inexpensive, and is resistant to contamination. Furthermore, this Tek can be used to prepare spawn for use in the spawn + bulk substrate Tek. The main steps involved in this Tek include inoculating a bag of rice to create spawn, mixing the inoculated spawn with a sterilized substrate for a bulk grow, and incubating the bulk substrate.
Materials required for the Uncle Ben’s Rice Tek include:
-Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice (brown or white but NO flavour)
-Sharp Knife or Scalpel
-Large Plastic Tote
To inoculate the bag of rice, one should first put on PPE and wipe down one’s work area, bag of rice, and knife/scalpel with isopropyl alcohol to prevent contamination. Then one should simply cut a small slit in the top
corner of the bag of rice, insert the spore syringe into the slit, inject 1-2cc’s of spore solution, and cover the slit with micropore tape. To further reduce the chance of contamination at this step, one could build a Still Air Box (SAB) and perform this task inside the SAB, or in front of a laminar flow hood, though this is not absolutely necessary. The bags of rice can then be left in a warm (73-78F), dark place to colonize. One should also check the bags regularly to ensure contamination is not present, and remove any bags showing signs of contamination from the cultivation space.
Once the rice has been completely colonized with mycelium, the next step is to prepare the substrate medium (usually a mixture of coconut coir, vermiculite, worm castings, Calcium Carbonate, peat moss, and distilled water). Next, sterilize this medium in a pressure cooker for 120 minutes at 15PSI, or pasteurize in an oven at 180deg for 5 hours.
To inoculate the fruiting medium with your spawn, take the clean plastic tote and place it inside of a large garbage bag. Next, examine each bag of spawn to ensure there is no contamination present, and combine the spawn with the sterilized/pasteurized fruiting medium at a ratio of 30% spawn to 70% fruiting medium. Mix the two mediums well, and lightly tamp the surface to make it as flat as possible. Then put a lid on the tray, and incubate in a warm (73-78F), dark place until the surface of the tray is completely white with mycelium. To trigger fruiting, one will simply have to adjust the humidity, O2/CO2 levels, and light schedule of the environment that the tray is in.
This Tek is extremely easy and low cost, and is the perfect method to try for beginner cultivators. Despite its inexpensiveness, this Tek can produce excellent yields if the spawn is bulked with a fruiting medium. It should also be noted that this Tek is relatively new and therefore there are currently few reviews about the potency, yield, and consistency of mushrooms grown using this Tek.
In conclusion, this article has covered the difficulty level, materials needed, and main steps involved in the three most common mushrooms growing techniques or “Teks.” The PF Tek is a great beginner cultivator Tek, though it will produce lower yields of mushrooms. The Spawn + Bulk Substrate Tek is an intermediate-advanced technique that involves more steps and has a higher chance of contamination, however will result in higher yield. Finally, the Uncle Ben Tek is a relatively new Tek that is great for beginner cultivators and can be combined with a bulking substrate to produce significant yield.
Whichever Tek you decide to use, remember the importance of sterility, and don’t eat all the mushrooms at once!
I am a Mycologist living in British Columbia, Canada. I have perfected a method of organic mushroom cultivation that works excellently for several Agaricus Genus mushroom species. In my spare time I love to write about Psychology, Fungi, and the Psychedelic experience.https://articlebiz.com
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