There’s a whole new cohort of curious folks out there who would love to explore psychedelics or microdose mushrooms but haven’t, simply because they don’t know where to start. They’re not sure where to buy mushrooms, or how to access a safe, reliable supply in the wild (and rightly so: Gathering wild psychedelic mushrooms is for actual mycology pros only). Growing mushrooms at home can be an appealing option, but one that comes with its own set of challenges. Figuring out how to grow mushrooms from scratch can be intimidating. Others are so tired of constant disinfecting in the COVID-19 era that they just can’t be asked to create another sterile space.
While we encourage aspiring fungi-culturists to give growing their own from scratch a shot (and have even assembled a course to walk you through the process!) you may find that a pre-made mushroom growing kit is a low-stakes way to try out mushroom cultivation and see if you enjoy it. Purists will argue that purchasing your own supplies costs less than buying a mushroom growing kit and offers better harvests, but others insist the convenience of a grow kit is worth it. Some recommend using a grow kit before you make the commitment to buying all the supplies you’d need for a homemade grow. The price point for the smaller kits means you can sample the joys of fungi cultivation before diving all the way in.
Here’s a rundown of what to look for in a psychedelic mushroom grow kit, plus our recommendations for the best mushroom growing kits for beginners.
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What to Look for in a Mushroom Kit
Different kits include different gear, but all of them allow you to grow the mushrooms in a container (typically a box, bag or jar). All kits should include some type of substrate. Substrate is the material that provides nutrition for the mushrooms (think of it as soil for fungi). While entire Reddit threads are devoted to debating the ideal substrate material, substrate is typically composed of some type of grain.
Mushrooms don’t just pop out of the substrate when they’re ready: They actually sprout from the mycelium, a white, fluffy substance that acts as the root system for the mushroom. In the same way a plant has to root and sprout before it flowers, the mycelium has to grow first before it produces any mushrooms. (The terminology can get overwhelming, but just keep in mind the progression of container > substrate > mycelium > mushrooms for when you’re deciding on a grow kit.)
Read: How to Dry Shrooms
Besides containers and substrates, you’ll need spores. Spores are to mushrooms as seeds are to plants: They’re the reproductive structures mushrooms grow from. Due to legality issues, mushroom grow kits made in the U.S. typically do not contain spores—you’ll need to order them from another source. (The companies that sell these sans-spore kits often link to trusted vendors they recommend for purchasing spores.) European grow kits often include spores or even a pre-colonized substrate (a.k.a. substrate with spores added) but the buyer pays more in shipping costs, and the legal risks may be greater.
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Psychedelic mushroom spores come in syringes, and the spores themselves do not contain psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms. While the sale and possession of psilocybin mushroom spores is illegal in California, Georgia and Idaho, spores can be ordered from other states. In their book The Psilocybin Mushroom Bible, Virginia Haze and Dr. K Mandrake advise growers not to purchase spores from individuals on Internet forums, and to buy from websites based in the same country you are.
You’ll be glad to know you can put your pandemic supplies and COVID handwashing regimen to good use in service of your grow: Growing mushrooms requires a super sterile environment, because the smallest contamination can quickly ruin a harvest. Some kits include hygiene supplies: latex gloves, alcohol swabs, propane lighters, face masks or surface disinfectant. If your kit doesn’t include them, these supplies are a wise investment. (One plus of a grow kit: The maker typically sterilizes the container and substrate before sealing it.)
Are Mushroom Grow Kits Worth It?
A reputable company wants buyers to succeed with their grow kits, so they’ll offer detailed instructions to accompany their kits, along with responsive customer support. Look for vendors that have been in business for a long time and have consistently solid reviews. Some of those vendors include the following:
Located in the Netherlands, this place bills itself as “the best online shop for magic mushrooms kits.” Their growing kits are already inoculated with spores, and the mycelium is fully developed. “You just add some water, the right temperature and a bright place to put the grow kit to develop,” the website claims. It’s almost certainly more complex than that, but they do offer well-illustrated instruction manuals and a reportedly responsive help desk. They also get points for encouraging responsible use.
Cons: Credit cards, PayPal, money orders, and checks not accepted. Only cash, bank transfers and cryptocurrency accepted.
Based in Woodstock, Illinois, Midwest Grow Kits has a loyal following, as they’ve been in the fungi cultivation business since 2004. Their most basic offering, the Simple Mushroom Grow Kit, is highly rated, as is their customer service, discreet packaging and video mushroom growing guide. If you’re anywhere near Chicago, they even offer pickup at their northwest suburban Illinois location. They accept PayPal and major credit cards as well.
Cons: Because they’re in the United States, you need to buy your own spores (although they do recommend trusted sites where you can purchase them, as well as specifics about how many syringes you need to get for each kind of kit.).
Another vendor in the Netherlands, Truffle Magic offers a wide variety of choice, with nine different types of mushrooms, plus a description of each type’s origins, purported strength and effect. They even provide a downloadable tripping guide.
Cons: Products ship from the Netherlands, and their Monday through Thursday customer service hours may be challenging for customers in North America. Bitcoin is their preferred payment method. And as they note, “All products on our website are legal in the Netherlands. If you order from abroad, please check what the law says in your country before you place an order. The responsibility for importing our products, to any country, lies entirely with the customer.“
This company, which has been in business since 2010, argues (correctly) that “growing edible or medicinal mushrooms is a science.” Their stated mission is to provide both amateur and professional mycologists with high-quality, scientific products and professional-grade mushroom cultivation supplies. Their grow kits come in eight sizes, with the smallest starting at $39.99. Shroom Supply only ships to the US and Canada. Buyers can pay with all major credit cards, Paypal, Bitcoin, check or money order.
Cons: Spores not included, and they do not offer links or recommendations on where to purchase them. And as their downloadable grow guide states very clearly that the guide “is intended to be used for the cultivation of legal mushrooms only. By using this guide you agree that you’re not using it for the cultivation of illegal mushroom species containing either psilocybin or psilocin.” Duly noted.
Wholecelium has been operating for 15 years, and they not only sell grow kits, but are themselves mycologists, with a thriving farm in the Netherlands. They’ve got good resources on the site: tutorials, grow manuals with helpful images and even a handy Psilopedia. They claim their kits can produce several harvests (which, if true, is more bang for your buck) and you can choose from a variety of species when you order (or even request a mix).
The mycelium is pre-grown, so no need to order spores or inoculate the substrate. They have nearly 2,000 reviews and 82 percent rate them as “excellent.” They’ve even got a little mascot named Shrooma.
They ship worldwide and accept credit cards, bank transfers, and Bitcoin. They clearly state in their legal section that their products are lawful in the Netherlands. Everywhere else? Caveat emptor.
Growing psychedelic mushrooms at home is a fun and deeply satisfying project. While aficionados will argue nothing compares to growing shrooms from scratch, others find grow kits convenient, easy to use, and a low-stakes way to dip their toes in the waters of fungi cultivation. If you’re over baking bread and ready for a new pandemic project, a home fungi crop produced with a mushroom growing kit could be just what you’re looking for in 2020. Just be sure that you are aware of the legality of this activity in the jurisdiction where you live.
Jennifer Boeder is a Los Angeles writer who covers psychedelics, cannabis, music, politics, and culture. Her work has appeared in High Times, Cannabis Culture, Civilized, Oxygen, She Knows, Chicagoist, and Wonkette.