So now you’re ready to cultivate and grow your own mushrooms. Whether it’s for personal consumption or for business purposes, harvesting magic mushrooms requires knowledge about the whole process; from cultivation to the harvest, each and every step of harvesting magic mushrooms is as technical as it gets. It requires careful attention to details and a personal interest in the art of handling psychedelic mushrooms. Here is a comprehensive guide on how and when to harvest magic mushrooms. But before that, for the newbies here, let’s look at what a magic mushroom is.
What is a magic mushroom?
Popularly known as shrooms, magic mushrooms are the types of mushrooms that contain the psychedelic compounds known as psilocybin or psilocin. These compounds give shrooms their characteristic ability to cause hallucinations and take you on a trip. From Terrance McKenna to Joe Rogan, people who have consumed magic mushrooms swear by their active psychedelic properties, and these can be consumed fresh, dried or in powder form. They are perfectly legal in Canada with the permission of health authorities.
Now, let’s look at the process of harvesting magic mushrooms.
Harvesting magic mushrooms: the 7-step process
This cultivation process includes seven steps that need to be undertaken to ensure quality mushroom growth. These are as follows,
- Strain selection
- Substrate preparation
Each of these steps will be discussed in detail, giving you a step-by-step guide to harvesting magic mushrooms that will provide a trip unlike ever before. After this process has been followed step-by-step, you will be able to harvest the magic mushrooms.
Quick note: these seven steps can be used for any strain and type of mushroom, even species. However, for this, we will only look at harvesting magic mushrooms, or mushrooms with either psilocybin or psilocin compounds in them. The Psilocybe genus is the most common mushroom used for this purpose.
The first step in harvesting magic mushrooms is probably the most overlooked as well, since many people tend not to research the strain of the mushrooms that need to be cultivated. Ideally, you’re going to want to go with the Pleurotus ostreatus, commonly known as the oyster mushroom, since they have a good percentage of psychedelic compounds in them. Selecting the strain requires research on a few factors that will determine how well the process goes; these factors are as follows.
- How fast does the mushroom grow
- Colouring of the mushroom body
- Shelf life of the mushrooms
- Temperature required
- Quantity of the yield
Each mushroom strain has different factors from these five; for instance, while some may have excellent coloring, their growing time or cultivation might be too lengthy. Similarly, some mushrooms grow quickly and have excellent psychedelic properties, but their shelf life isn’t all that impressive, which keeps away from cultivating them. What you want out of your magic mushrooms will correspond to what strain you select.
After you have selected your strain of magic mushrooms, its time to prepare the substrate. You may ask, what is a substrate? Well, in harvesting magic mushrooms, a substrate is essentially the base from which your growing mushrooms will derive their nutrition. It is a layer of compounds that will serve as a base from where the mushrooms will get nutrients, much like how plants get their nutrients from the fertilisers in soil.
Now, a substrate can be anything, ranging from coffee grounds to grain hulls. The important thing to keep in mind here is that the substrate needs to be carbon-rich. High carbon content will ensure that the mushrooms get all the nutrients they need to grow. However, selecting a substrate is also dependent on a number of factors. All strains of mushrooms can make do with any type of substrate, so it’s really a question of what you can get for your mushroom cultivation. If you can get coffee grounds, then we are a go! Even old logs and stumps can do the job, so anything that suits you and is carbon-rich can go for substrate.
This step is a delicate one, since this will be the first time the mushroom spawns will be introduced to the substrate. In this step, the spawns will be placed on top of the substrate or, alternatively, will be buried in the substrate and then shaken ever so slightly to distribute and sort of spread the spawn around. Two more things that need to be taken care of are the location of the inoculation and the inoculation rate. The location depends on the substrate: substrates with nitrogen will require you to stay sterile and keep the substrate and spawn in lab-like conditions: no contamination allowed at all. For substrates with lower nitrogen levels, the mushroom spawn can be inoculated in normal conditions or even outdoors.
The inoculation rate is important, especially for beginners just getting into harvesting magic mushrooms. Inoculation rate means balancing the time a spawn needs to grow into a mushroom and the economics of running this process. Ideally, what you want is to have a high rate of inoculation, which would basically mean that the mushroom mycelium is established first and foremost. This would help keep the process financially feasible and would affect the yield positively.
For your fourth step, once the inoculation has been done, now its time to let the spawn grow into mushrooms. For that, the incubation period, throughout its duration, requires that the spawn grow through the substrate. Once the mycelium jumps through the substrate, its go time. You let the mushroom spawn grow further, and let them reach a jumping point. This is the point where the mycelium of different spawns fuse together to form a singular mycelial organism. At this point, your mushrooms are ready and primed for the next step.
Depending on the substrate, you will have either outdoor or indoor cultivation. For both these processes, incubation takes a different course. For outdoor cultivation, maintaining moisture is crucial. As soon as cracks appear on the substrate, douse them in water until the spawns are moist. Whereas for indoor cultivation, water and moisture is not that much of a problem. Temperature is what will define your magic mushrooms, and as such, temperature needs to be maintained around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Initiation is the part of the process where your spawns will start to take the shape of mushrooms. Up until this point, the spawns have mycelial growth, but to encourage the growth further into proper mushroom formation, initiation steps are followed. Depending on the strain and type of mushroom, you can trigger the growth by lowering temperatures and increasing the oxygen level, and raising the oxygen level can be done by either water shocking or simply exposing the growth and substrate to oxygen-rich environments.
For outdoor cultivation, this is usually not a problem, since oxygen is readily available throughout initiation. For indoor cultivation, the substrate and the mycelial growth can be soaked into water for 5-12 hours, or for specific types of mushrooms, cold shocking can be used by placing them in a giant cooler for 12 hours before removing the plastic bags. Alternatively, the plastic bags can be but from the top to introduce the mycelial growth to oxygen in indoor cultivation.
Now we’re onto the good parts, where your creation finally starts to take beautiful shape. Fruiting is a process where the mushrooms start taking shape, and great attention and care is needed to ensure that each batch of mushrooms get the optimal and crucial four factors in exactly the right manner. These are,
- Temperature: Maintaining the temperature at around 60 Fahrenheit will yield the best mushrooms: that is a fact. Anything lower than that, the mushrooms will have a rather meaty texture, which is off-putting for many enthusiasts. Temperatures below 50F will see the mushrooms stunted in growth. High temperatures are also not ideal: above 75F, the mushroom will decrease in its quality of psychedelic materials and will turn into a low-quality mushroom. Therefore, maintaining temperatures around 60F is crucial.
- Humidity: Humidity needs to be around 85 per cent in the start of fruiting. However, as time goes, humidity levels can be dropped to around 60 per cent. However, ideally you would want to have around 80 per cent throughout the process, since this is the best for the fruiting process.
- Lighting: Lighting is also important to have healthy fruits. Mushrooms are commonly thought of as growing best in the dark, but in the case of harvesting magic mushrooms, you want ample light in the room. If not, the mushrooms will grow with long stalks and not much of the top part, which is not ideal. Keep a steady source of light in the room during fruiting.
- Oxygen: Finally, oxygen is crucial during fruiting. Throughout the process, oxygen has been relatively absent, but during fruiting, you would want to ensure that oxygen is plentiful by blasting in fresh air every five to ten minutes with a fan. Good oxygen content will result in good fruiting of the mushrooms.
The labour of love, the fruit of your efforts is finally ready! Harvesting magic mushrooms at the right time is also very important: you will need to make sure that the cap margin stays curled while the gills underneath are exposed. Harvesting magic mushrooms while temperatures are below 75F will result in a perfect harvest, with beautiful mushrooms with a good psychedelic content in them. Harvest mushrooms daily and place them in a container where there is room to breath, like a cardboard box with holes in it. Since mushrooms are rather fragile after a harvest, minimal handling and contact should be practiced.
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