Tending to something and watching it grow is always a fulfilling experience. Some people love to grow orchids, others plant their avocado stones, some might feed bugs to their Venus flytraps. Since lockdown especially, even those who never considered themselves ‘green fingered’ have jumped on the gardening train. With sales of plants and seeds through the roof, people are attempting to both make their homes nicer, and to find something to do. However, there are some who might consider themselves ‘grey-fingered’… (or should that be ‘beige-fingered’?) But, what are we talking about?
Why, the growing trend for growing your own mushrooms of course!
Yup, for those who like their gardening a bit more subterranean and fungus-y, this is the hobby for you! And, what’s more, I don’t think that you can take a psychedelic trip from chowing down on those orchids you’ve been fawning over…
So how to begin on your shroom growing career? Well, it all starts with a little spore…
So What Is A Spore For?
So what is a spore for?
Well, in basic terms it’s the mushroom equivalent of a seed. You might already know this if you checked out our Magic Mushroom Glossary— essential for the burgeoning shroom-expert. However! This is a deep dive, and there is far more to spores than meets the eye…
Spores are the reproductive cells from which fungi multiply and grow. They are single-celled, tiny in size, and on a healthy mushroom they exist in huge populations. This is because successful germination of a fungus is relatively rare. Clyde Martin Christensen describes spores as being 1/2500 of an inch long in his book ‘Edible Mushrooms’ — pretty darn small. They are found on the underside of the mushroom cap, in the gills, teeth, or pores— depending on the species of mushroom. These terms (gills, teeth, pores) reflect the shape of the spore-producing part of the mushroom.
And each little spore works as a calling card for the mushroom it came from— useful to know for mushroom hunters who want to identify a particular species.
A Happy Mushroom Produces Spores
Like plants that fruit or flower, most mushrooms do not produce spores all the time. Like, for example, an apple tree, the mushroom will only grow its reproductive components if there is enough nutrients (food) and water to produce the extra energy needed for it to make the spores. This means that if a mushroom is producing spores, it is by default a happy and healthy fungus.
Connect, Expand and Grow
Spores, depending on the mushroom, can drop, or be ejected, from underneath the cap. When they fall, their tiny size means they can be picked up by air currents and carried along to be disseminated. Although the majority of spores will land on inhospitable ground, the ones that are lucky find a fertile spot and get to work. They send shoots into the ground, which find other shoots from other little spores and they begin the reproductive process. Together they connect, expand and grow the subterranean fungus system.
How To Make A Spore Print
Spores, fascinatingly, can also act like the ‘fingerprint’ of a mushroom. Identifying what sort of mushroom you are dealing with is essential if you plan to eat them (whether for psychedelic reasons OR just because you’re hungry), as many species are poisonous, and occasionally deadly. Taking a ‘spore print’ is a common technique with which to identify a mushroom.
To make a spore print, you cut the cap of a mushroom off and put it gill/teeth/pore-side down on a piece of light coloured paper, glass, plastic wrap or foil. You then place a cup or bowl over the mushroom and leave it for between 2 and 24 hours (depending on the freshness of the mushroom). After that time, the millions of spores which have fallen from the cap will leave a clear print, from which you can identify the mushroom species.
How To Cultivate Mushroom Spores
There are many techniques and tools for growing mushrooms from spores at home, particularly magic ones. However, this can be difficult if you are not an expert in mushroom cultivation. While growing from spores is cheap, it takes some work, as you must produce the substrate (fertile ground from which the spores will grow), inoculate and incubate all yourself.
Spores can be bought online (check the legality in your own country of residence), along with tools to administer them to your substrate, such as a ‘spore syringe’. This medical terminology is also a clue to the care you should take when growing shrooms from spores. The highest level of hygiene is recommended, disinfected hands, clean clothes etc. The reason for this is that the damp and slightly stinky habitat that fungi love is also ideal for a whole host of un-invited guests— such as mould and bacteria that can be harmful for both your, and your baby mushrooms’ health.
However, if you are up to the challenge (keen to hone that aforementioned grey-thumb?) then there are many techniques to try, most famously PF Tek. This was introduced in 1992 by Professor Robert McPherson, also known as Psilocybe Fanaticus. It is well respected and known for being a relatively simple, and straightforward, set of guidelines for growing at home.
Legality of Spores
Additionally, as spores of magic mushrooms do not contain either psilocin or psilocybin, in many jurisdictions they are actually legal. However, some jurisdictions do categorise their cultivation as intent to manufacture drugs, so again, make sure you check the laws in your place of residence.
The Answer: Magic Mushroom Grow Kits!
If you want to grow some shrooms, but the syringes, heating matts and sterilisation seems a bit complex, there is another option! Magic mushroom grow kits arrive with the little spores cosy in a fertile substrate and having already germinated (grown) into mycelium. This means that, while of course still in need of care and attention, it is much easier and efficient to grow yourself some shrooms. And so, you get to enjoy the fruits of your cultivation much sooner than if you were starting from that tiny little spore alone. When the pinheads begin to sprout you’ll feel like a proud gardener!
As Shrooma says…