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It began with a Mason jar. It was wide-mouthed and translucent, Can you grow magic mushrooms for air flow and the visual inspection of radial growth. The year was and Dennis McKenna, then a starry-eyed year-old, was on a mission to grow magic mushrooms. An article in the academic journal Mycologia by a researcher who had grown button mushrooms for genetic analysis had given him the idea to use the household item as a vessel.
It was small scale, affordable, reusable, and inconspicuous, plus he could buy it at any grocery store. And then he hoped for the best. It was a weighty undertaking; these spores were from mushrooms that had revealed cosmic truths to Dennis and his brother, Terence. Whether driven by trans-dimensional communications, the scientific method, or both, the brothers got their wish, and then some.
From that first manual, a new domestic practice was born, one that adapts modern lab skills to populist, albeit psychedelic, applications. The directions were tailored to one species in particular, the most potent and easiest to cultivate: Psilocybe cubensis. The evolution of these home cultivation methods is a story of user-generated, iterative de, the kind that has become familiar in the internet age. As psilocybin moves farther out of the margins and into the mainstream towards mass market commodification, the story of Psilocybe cultivation reminds us that these mushrooms have been an object of scientific and technological experimentation for over half a century.
This little-known history is entangled with the early internet in both its cultural values and practical sensibility. Can you grow magic mushrooms the criminalization of psilocybin pushed them underground, cultivators came together online, united by a collective fascination for mushrooms, a shared love of tinkering and hacking, and the drive to share their knowledge and know-how freely. For most of its history, mycology has been overlooked and understudied, relegated to the shadows of botany and microbiology. In the 20th century, a new scientific understanding of fungi gave rise to a high-yield industry, but mycology and mushroom cultivation remained an obscure niche.
It was a revelation to both mycologists and the psychedelic-curious when, inan article in Life magazine described the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms among Mazatec people in Southern Mexico. But until the publication of the McKennas manual, psilocybin-producing species were a rare, seasonal, and wild-foraged delicacy among hippies. The overarching focus of these manuals was how to avoid contamination. Although mushrooms are often associated with dirt and rot, they require a sterile environment for cultivation.
In the Can you grow magic mushrooms, a single mushroom can drop between one to thirty billion spores per day, but faced with countless microbial competitors and widely varying environments, very few of these spores actually germinate. When they do, they grow into individual thre of mycelium, which then explore their environment, mate, and form an enmeshed network.
Eventually they produce fruit bodies mushrooms and start the process over again.
But the cultivator is working with only a tiny fraction of this living material, so the goal is to eliminate the random chance involved. Instead of launching trillions of spores, cultivators get rid of the competition: They sterilize a fine-tuned growing environment and then introduce the spores they want to grow. The problem is that microbial contaminants are everywhere—they live on our Can you grow magic mushrooms and eyelashes, nestle in the folds of our clothing, and float through the air on dust particles.
Every interaction over the open vessel risks contamination. One wrong move and the batch is bad. Good sterile technique can mean the difference between a pound of fresh mushrooms and jars full of green mold. By the early s, although the craft of cultivation was no longer hidden knowledge, it was still a precarious and painstaking process. The instinct to radically simplify methods germinated among experimental minds.
Like most people, Robert McPhearson, a middle-aged jazz musician, had mixed luck with the standard method of inoculation.
So he tried injecting the spores as a liquid solution through small holes punched into the Mason jar lid that were sealed with masking tape. He also experimented with materials to better protect the substrate from airborne contaminants.
When it came time to fruit, he simply transferred the now brick-like myceliated grain to a larger Mason jar but a big glass bowl would do just as well. Whether through luck or intuition, his tweaks yielded abundant fruit bodies. And then came his greatest innovation: selling the spore syringes by mail, bundled with instructions for his newfangled technique. Now the would-be cultivator only needed the spore syringe, a Mason jar, some kitchenware, and the ability to follow directions. McPhearson called the method the PF Tek. One quart of pure cultures guaranteed. Just as mushroom cultivation was finding new audiences, the rise of online forums began transforming the practice.
Ina year-old named Ythan Bernstein built Shroomery. The website was modeled on lycaeum. Sections multiplied; numerous subthre were born. Before long, Shroomery had an amiable rival in Mycotopia. Once a strange and solitary hobby, cultivators and mycological enthusiasts could now trade stories and tips online. They formed a community of fellow mycophiles with their own slang and internal debates. They troubleshot Can you grow magic mushrooms cultivation fails and gave feedback and advice.
Today, the site is a rabbit warren of layered conversations and a treasury of practical know-how. The tone is typical: a mix of nerdy zeal, wry jokes, homemade animated gifs, fraternal competitiveness, and mutual Can you grow magic mushrooms. The site has produced its own homegrown masters: Hippie3, Roger Rabbit, Alan Rockefeller, to name a few.
Collectively, these forums have generated some of home cultivation best practices. This innovation, which uses a tuff of Poly-Fil and a dab of RTV silicone rubber, was quickly adopted, modified, and refined by users on Shroomery and Mycotopia and is now taught widely as an easy and reliable way to avoid contamination. As the practice has evolved over the years, these values have continued to shape home cultivation practices. Because it allows more people to participate and experiment on their own.
Resourcefulness and inventiveness—especially creative appropriation—are equally valued. Underlying all of this is a commitment to an open source and do-it-yourself ethos.
The kinship with the hacker ethic is not incidental: This kind of psychedelic kitchen science shares a genealogy with personal computing, both with roots in s Northern California counterculture and its communalism, pragmatism, and eco-modern aesthetic. While these histories have diverged, reconverged, and diverged again, home cultivators and hackers still share critical attitudes towards science and technology—especially in their principled freedom from the norms of professional science while appropriating its tools.
They share the drive to spread technological fluency, to make science and technology serve people rather than the other way around. And they share a mischievous, sometimes trollish, sense of humor. And as psychedelics teeter on the brink of legitimacy, more and more people are learning these cultivation methods. Challenges remain. These threats are not abstract; McPhearson himself was convicted of a felony and spent six months in home detention after the DEA busted his door and raided his home with helicopters and assault rifles in But the history of home cultivation reminds us that lo-tech, adaptable, and modular des can be some of the most far-reaching technology.
With it, cultivators brought the lab back into the kitchen, where it was once practiced by alchemists and herbalists before being cordoned off Can you grow magic mushrooms universities and corporate labs. Science and technology have never been the exclusive property of those with the most degrees, funds, and patent attorneys. Joanna Steinhardt is an anthropologist and writer living in Oakland, California. Ideas Contributor Twitter.
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