Though I generally deal with the questions regarding ganjacation, Potent staff put me up to the test of answering the emails received regarding those wonderful magic mushrooms. Turns out I know more than I thought I did. Just kidding, I knew I was well versed in the topic of shrooms. After browsing the vast interwebs to confirm my answers, I rolled a joint and sat down at my laptop to tackle the pressing questions regarding psychedelics. The questions came from all over the country and though there were few, I hope my in depth answers provide insight to those who didn't send in their inquiries.
Q: A friend sent me a culture of mushrooms called Golden Tops (Psilocybe cubensis) from Florida. I have grown the mushrooms easily on dog chow agar in 500 ml flasks but recently tried using brown rice in quart mayonnaise jars-to no avail. After I inoculate the jars and tighten the lids, mycelium grows out from the agar for about seven days. Then it stops. There is no sign of contamination even after two months. What should I do?
A: I presume you are using the one-piece lids that originally come with the mayonnaise jars. A common problem with one-piece lids is a tendency to close them too tight. The mycelia need to breathe. If lids are too tight, carbon dioxide builds up and prevents growth. Also, anaerobic bacteria can grow under such conditions and putrefy the medium. The thing to do if mycelia stop growing before they have permeated the rice-cake or other medium is to loosen the lids. If anaerobic bacteria have not taken over and the mycelium has not died in the interim, the mycelium should resume growth.
I first became aware of this type of problem four years ago when trying to grow a strain of Golden Tops from San Antonio on sterilized horse manure in quart canning jars with two-piece lids. In about a month, all jars began to fruit except for one. In that container mycelium had covered about two-thirds of the manure and then stopped growing. I moved the canning jar to the bottom of a shelf for storage and promptly forgot about it. Eleven months later I rediscovered the jar with mycelium exactly as it was after one month of growth I opened the jar and noticed that the dome accidentally had been placed with the rubber seal facing down instead of being inverted before sterilization. Thus, the jar had been airtight. No wonder the mycelium had not grown out completely. The contents smelled all right, so I inverted the dome, replaced the lid band and set the jar in the light. In one week, the mycelium finished permeating the manure and in another week made healthy mushrooms.
Casing the Spawn
Q: I have been trying to grow psilocybin mushrooms using the method of casing rye grain spawn with a mixture of vermiculite, sand and peat moss. I have also tried using potting soil from a local nursery. I have been misting the jarsinanice chest three times a day to keep humidity high, but I get green mold instead of mushrooms. The spawn makes dynamite mushrooms when placed in a heap of horse manure in my yard, but I want to grow them by casing spawn directly because I have read it is a faster, cleaner technique. Any suggestions would be helpful.
A: You are right that casing grain spawn is usually faster than inoculating compost with the spawn. I suspect your problem may result either from overwatering or not heat-treating the casing soil before use. I have found that, when using potting soil or artificial casing mixtures for growing mushrooms in ice chests, it is important to preheat the soil to kill the microbesin it. This gives the cubensis mycelia a chance for strong growth into the soil without having to compete with undesirable molds.
A good way to preheat casing soil is to dampen it with water, put it in a brown-in-bag and bake it for a few hours at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to have a tray under the bag in case it breaks. Then allow it to cool. Remove the lid of the jar to be cased. Wipe away mycelia that have grown on the glass with a clean paper towel. Then pour on about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of casing soil, mist lightly and place aluminum foil around the jar. Use a small piece of tape to hold the foil in place. The foil blocks light that might otherwise induce fruiting in the spawn, taking away valuable energy from the mycelium. You want its full energy to be put into making mushrooms on the casing soil. The foil also helps to maintain a constant warm ambient temperature. Extremes of heat or cold can slow down mushroom production.
It is imperative not to mist too much, but it is equally important to maintain high humidity. Light misting into the chamber about twice a day should accomplish this. The most common problem is overwatering. This frequently results from misting too often directly onto the soil, which can easily become saturated. Very wet soil promotes contamination and makes it difficult for mycelia to breathe. Also, it is important to allow fresh air to circulate at least twice a day. Air circulation tends to reduce contamination, which thrives best in stagnant conditions. If you mist twice a day this is a good time to circulate air by waving the lid.
There are some strains of cubensis that don't fruit well on casing soil. They usually produce at least some depauperate (puny and immature) mushrooms, giving you a clue that maybe the soil isn't satisfactory for the gene of that particular mushroom. If this is the case, you need to try another strain, preferably from a different collection locality.