Have you ever thought about growing magic mushrooms at home? Here’s our complete guide to legal magic mushroom cultivation.
Magic mushrooms are incredibly popular, but the process of mushroom cultivation is still not particularly well understood. Anyone who’s looking into how to grow magic mushrooms for the first time can quickly find themselves lost in a world of impenetrable jargon.
And yet growing mushrooms is not rocket science. Using a magic mushroom grow kit is a great way to go as you get a lot of the necessary bits of gear packaged up together. But aside from the spore syringe (a pre-sterilized injection needle containing spores dissolved in a solution) there’s nothing specialized about the equipment. And as this easy, six step guide (see below) to growing your own ‘shrooms’ shows the entire process of growing your own mushrooms is remarkably straightforward.
Where do magic mushrooms come from?
Magic mushrooms is an umbrella term for a range of different species of fungi which contain the psychoactive compound psilocybin. Species of psilocybin mushrooms can be found growing naturally on every continent, except Antarctica, but they’re particularly prevalent in the temperate climates of Europe and North America.
Like all fungi, these species grow from mushroom spores. Broadly speaking, spores are like seeds, but because they’re made up of a single cell (instead of multiple cells, like a seed) they don’t contain any of the nutrients needed to germinate. This means they require a bit more care and attention to grow to maturity.
What makes magic mushrooms magic?
It’s still not known entirely why psilocybin causes our brains to enter a psychedelic state—or even what the psychedelic state looks like inside of our brains. But that hasn’t prevented humans using them for a wide variety of purposes for thousands—if not tens of thousands—of years.
There are cave paintings in southern Spain dating back to the Stone Age which researchers believe show the use of magic mushrooms. While in North America, sculptures and artworks which pre-date the arrival of Europeans clearly depict the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms in religious and ceremonial contexts.
Despite this long history of use, and the fact that fresh mushrooms of the psychedelic variety can be found growing naturally in many places on the planet, they remain illegal in many places in the United States. In many other countries, psilocybin mushroom cultivation can incur a range of criminal penalties too. Many of these laws date back to the 60s and 70s, when lawmakers, fuelled by fear of magic mushrooms’ burgeoning use as a recreational drug in the 60s and 70s, banned both magic mushrooms and mushroom cultivation.
In recent years, however, the effects of psychedelic substances like magic mushrooms are once again being thoroughly studied by researchers in scientific settings. The results of medical studies into psilocybin therapy as a treatment for conditions like depression, have been incredibly impressive. Meanwhile, there’s been a growing trend for microdosing psilocybin, and other psychotropic substances, particularly within the creative and tech industries.
Where are magic mushrooms legal? And where is it legal to grow magic mushrooms?
All of this means that psychedelic mushrooms are becoming increasingly more accepted in mainstream society. Recently, large-scale clinical trials studying their use in therapeutic settings have been approved in Berkeley, California; Aspen, Colorado and at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Maryland. There are smaller trials underway in other academic settings as well. At the time of publication, the use of psilocybin mushrooms has been decriminalized in several cities, including Seattle, Washington; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Oakland, California; Santa Cruz, California; Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts; the state of Oregon and Washington D.C.
While growing magic mushrooms remains technically illegal, mushroom grow kits and spores are actually legal in most states (just so long as you don’t use them!) At the time of publication full cultivation had, however, been decriminalized in the following jurisdictions: Seattle, Washington; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Santa Cruz, California; Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts; Oregon and Washington D.C.
Additionally, it is legal to possess and grow magic mushrooms in a number of other countries, including Brazil, The Netherlands, Austria, and Nepal, as well as some island nations like Samoa and the Bahamas.
Where can I buy magic mushroom grow kits and magic mushroom spores?
Naturally, as shrooms become more socially acceptable, sellers of mushroom growing kits and mushroom spores have sprung up to fulfill the demands of the growing market. You can read our forthcoming guide to different magic mushroom spores, and where to buy them, for the complete lowdown.
But the main rule to remember is that the laws around growing magic mushrooms are varied, and subject to change. So check that whichever company you’re buying your mushroom spores or mushroom growing kit from is entirely legit before parting with your cash.
What’s the process behind growing psychedelic mushrooms?
Once you’ve done your legal checks, if you want to grow your own medicinal mushrooms, brew up a cup of mushroom tea, or make your own magic mushroom chocolate, where do you start?
Growing mushrooms of the psychedelic variety is harder than growing mushrooms of the cooking variety, which typically only require compost, a growing tray, and warmed soil to grow.
Mushroom growers looking to cultivate psilocybin mushrooms require more materials, more maintenance and more technical know-how. Mushrooms need moist dark conditions to start growing, or “colonizing” and moist conditions with moderate ambient light to “fruit”. The method we’re talking you through here is known as the PF Tek method, and involves mason jars, and two plastic boxes—one black, one clear—for the two different stages.
Throughout the growth period, you have to pay great attention to four major factors: light, hygiene, humidity, and temperature. The mishandling of any one of these four factors can lead to having to throw everything out and start again.
What equipment do you need to grow mushrooms?
The advantage of the PF Tek method is its simplicity, and the fact that you don’t need any specialized equipment. You should be able to buy everything in a garden center, or hardware stores—with the exception of the mushroom spores. The best way to buy magic mushroom spores is as a solution, in pre-packaged spore syringes.
If you want to make things easier still, we’d recommend buying one of the many grow kits available on the market. Mushroom grow kits will contain everything you need, including the brown rice flour and the various containers.
For various reasons (not least, potential legal implications) psychedelic mushroom spores and spore syringes are often sold separately, however. Here’s the equipment we’ll refer to in our guide, that you’d expect to find in a standard mushroom growing kit.
- Spore syringes filled with spore solution
- Micropore tape (the kind commonly used to secure bandages)
- Surgical gloves
- A surgical/Covid mask (ideally N95 type)
- Rubbing alcohol, in a spray bottle
- Bleach, in a spray bottle
- Air disinfectant
- Water, in a fine mist bottle
- Brown rice flour
- Perlite (commonly used in soil-less home gardening)
- Vermiculite (commonly used in soil-less home gardening)
- Mason jars (or another kind of easily-sterilizable airtight container) for the initial growing phase
- Tin foil
- One large, black plastic box — Sterilite Tote or similar
- One large clear plastic box — Sterilite Tote or similar
What are the six steps for growing your own magic mushrooms?
Once you’ve got your gear together, you need to start by sterilizing everything. Contaminants are your worst enemy, and mushroom growers should aim to be as clean as a surgeon going into theater. Choose a table in a closed room that’s away from drafts, open windows, doors etc. Try and avoid carpeted rooms, as carpets can be home to all sorts of microbes.
Once you’ve got your space organized, vacuum it, mop it, and then set to work with your bleach, rubbing alcohol, and air disinfectant to get it sparkling clean. Prepare your mason jars by punching four, evenly spaced holes in the lids, then sterilize them too. Scrub yourself down, and don your surgical gloves, and N95 mask before you handle anything.
Fill your mason jars with a mixture of brown rice flour, vermiculite, and water to form ‘substrate’—the mixture in which your spores will grow. Fill them to within a half inch of the rim, and then cover that with a layer of dry vermiculite to insulate the substrate. Then cover the jar lids in silver foil and heat-sterilize them in a pan of boiling water.
Using a lighter, heat sterilize one of your spore syringes, until the needle tip is red hot. Once it’s cooled down, plunge it through the holes in the mason jar lids, and inject the spore solution into the substrate. Cover each hole with micropore tape once you’ve injected the substrate below.
Then put your jars into your large, black plastic box (sterilized, of course, like everything else) and seal the lid. For this stage of their life cycle, mushrooms need to be kept in the dark.
The Colonization phase of growing your own mushrooms is essentially a waiting game. Make sure your mason jars are away from direct sunlight (as they should be, in the plastic box) and the temperatures don’t exceed the 70-80°F (21-26°C) range — i.e. keep them at a warm room temperature.
“Mycelium”—essentially the root structure of the fungus—should start to appear from 7 – 14 days. It’s a white, fluffy substance, which will spread outwards from the sites where you injected the spore solution.
After about a month, if all goes well, your jars should be successfully “colonized” and the substrate should be covered with white, fluffy, living mycelium. Keep an eye out for any signs of contaminants, and throw away any jars that look or smell funny. Some contaminants can make mushrooms dangerous for human consumption.
4) Prepare the Fruiting Chamber
Take your clear plastic box, and drill holes in it, roughly an inch and a half (4cm) apart on the top, bottom, and sides. Put the corners of the box on four raised objects—like an old chevy on blocks—so that fresh air can flow in from underneath, as well as the sides and lid.
This is your “fruiting chamber”, where the mushrooms will complete the next stage of their growth—this particular type is known as a shotgun fruiting chamber, and is one of the simplest and easiest to make.
Cover the bottom of the chamber with a 4-5 inch (10-12cm) layer of moist perlite, which will retain liquid but allow air through the holes in the bottom of the fruiting chamber. You may want to put a plastic sheet underneath the blocks holding the box up, to prevent any moisture dripping and making a mess of the floor.
Along with the initial sterilization and inoculation, this is probably the most complex part of the mushroom cultivation process.
- Once the substrate in your jars is completely covered in white mycelium, open them, tip off the dry vermiculite at the top, and extract the ‘mycelium cake’ (the mycelium covered substrate, which will be held together in a little round cake by the white fungal ‘roots’) by inverting the mason jar and tapping the bottom. This process is known as “birthing”.
- Dunk the “birthed” cakes in a pan or bowl of water, weighing them down to make sure they’re fully submerged. Leave them for 24 hours.
- Roll each cake in a layer of vermiculite, making sure it’s well coated.
- Cut squares of silver foil—one for each cake—and lay them out at evenly spaced distances in your fruiting chamber. Place the vermiculite-covered cakes on the squares of silver foil.
- Leave the box in a relatively warm place with decent natural light. Make sure you don’t leave lights on at night, as you want your psilocybin containing mushrooms to have day and night cycles.
- Spray the sides of your box with water, and fan it with the lid, to circulate the moisture and fresh air. Repeat the spray and fanning process three to four times every 24 hours.
This is the part you’ve been waiting for. Your mushrooms will first appear as small white bumps, or “fruits” on the sides of the mycelium cakes, before sprouting into “pins”. They should be ready to harvest between five days and two weeks after you first put the cakes into the fruiting chamber.
Don’t wait until your mushrooms reach the end of their growth before harvesting, as they’ll begin to lose potency as they mature. The best time to harvest shrooms is just before the ‘veil’, the thin layer covering the cap and stalk, breaks.
When they’re ready to harvest, slice them off as close to the “cake” as possible with a sterilized knife. For those who like jargon, a full crop of mushrooms is known as a “flush”.
Check out FreshCap Mushrooms’ instructional videos:
A few pointers to remember
Avoid contamination – Not only will this lead to a poor mushroom harvest (or “flush” as it’s known) but contaminated mycelium and mushrooms can become poisonous very easily.
Light is important – But so is a lack of light, at least in the initial, “colonization” phase. Think about how mushrooms grow in the wild, they start in the dark, before sprouting, or ‘fruiting’ in lighter conditions. More advanced mushroom growing techniques can involve a grow light to regulate the amount of light your mushrooms get exactly.
Keep everything warm, and moist – Again, think about the conditions and seasons where you find fresh mushrooms growing in the wild. Your home cultivation conditions should aim to replicate that as closely as possible.
A mushroom growing kit will make things easier – Not only will a psychedelic mushroom grow kit contain everything you need (apart from in some cases, the spores), good grow kits will also contain instructions, helping you produce more mushrooms with each ‘flush’.
The PF Tek method (described above) is not the only way to grow mushrooms – As you gain more experience as a mushroom grower, you may want to explore other ways to produce mushrooms. Replacing perlite with coco coir (another common gardening substance) or even CVG, a mixture of coco coir, the fertilizer gypsum, and vermiculite, are also popular. PF Tek doesn’t necessarily produce the biggest or the best magic mushroom harvests. It is, however, very straightforward.
Don’t do anything illegal – Buying and selling psilocybin spores is still banned in many states in the US, and countries in the world. Make sure you do your research first, from checking out where your spore syringe supplier is based, to making sure your local law enforcement officers won’t have cause to kick down your door. No-one wants to go to all the effort of growing shrooms, only to have the cops confiscate them.