Growing truffles (Philosopher Stones)

The Psilocybe mexicana and the Psilocybe tampanensis are two mushrooms which are known for their sclerotia-forming. Sclerotia (plural of sclerotium) are hard pieces of mycelium which the mushroom grows throughout the substrate. These hard pieces mycelium have a much better resistance against bad influences that could cause delays in growing than normal (soft) mycelium. They serve thus as protection against a too high or too low temperature, dehydration and a too high air humidity. The sclerotia are looking a bit like walnuts.

The sclerotia of the Psilocybe mexicana and the Psilocybe tampanensis contain a much higher concentration psilocybine then the mushrooms themselves. This makes that most people only grow the sclerotia instead of the mushrooms. ‘Truffles’ they call this kind of mushroom-less mycelium, or ‘Philosopher Stones’. The ‘A’-strain of the Psilocybe mexicana is commonly known as the mushroom which forms most of the sclerotia. Growing sclerotia is not that different from growing mushrooms. While growing mushrooms you only go a few phases further in the life circle of the mycelium. The Psilocybe mexicana and the Psilocybe tampanensis are growing bests on grass seed. A lot of different types of grass seed of several brands have conducted to a good result. Rye or white rise can also be used.

Required substrate (in volume):

  • 10 parts grass seed
  • 5 parts water

Sterilize the substrate in a filter pocket, filter box or glass jar with a self built-in filter. Filter boxes and glass jar must be sterilized for 1 hour at 15 psi. A full filter pocket for 3 hours. If the substrate has cooled down entirely, you can start to inoculate it with a sporesyringe or mycelium on agar. Naturally we prefer a strong single strain on agar. Shake the pocket or pot well to divide the spores all over the substrate. After inoculation you can put the substrate aside in the incubator. The mycelium grows best in the dark at a temperature between 21 and 25 °C. After 2 to 4 weeks, and a couple of good shakings now and then, the substrate will have entirely colonized. You should now decide whether you want to grow the mushrooms or sclerotia.

Growing the sclerotia

When choosing this option, you are basically done ‘gardening’… The only thing that counts now is that you need to be patient. You can just leave the substrate where it is (still at a temperature between 21 – 25 °C). Also important from now on is not to shake the substrate anymore.

The substrate will quite rapidly start its forming of sclerotia. Slowly the sclerotia will grow into large, hard pieces with a yellow-brownish color. This sclerotia-growing last about 3 up to 4 months. After this period they will not grow any bigger

Growing the mushrooms

If you choose to grow mushrooms instead of the sclerotia, for instance because you wish to make spore prints, you will have to take it some steps further. If the substrate has been entirely colonized and has not yet started its sclerotia-growing, you need to add a ‘casing-layer’ to the substrate. These mushrooms perform best on a casing-layer of peat, vermiculite and calcium carbonate.

Shake the bag or jar to loosen up the mycelium. Scatter the mycelium in a clean barge and cover it with a casing-layer of 1 to 1.5 cm thick. Put the lid on the barge or cover the whole thing with foil. After all this, the barge must be placed back in the incubator for some days.

When the mycelium is clearly visible through the casing-layer, you can place the whole cluster in the fruit forming conditions. For the Psilocybe mexicana and the Psilocybe tampanensis these conditions do not differ that much from those of other types of mushrooms. For the Psilocybe mexicana and the Psilocybe tampanensis these conditions mean that they must be exposed to fresh air, (indirect) sunlight, air humidity of 95% and a temperature of 20 °C or a even a little bit higher.

After 1 up to 2 weeks the first pinheads will appear. These pinheads will develop  into adult mushrooms in 4 to 7 days.

Truffle Growkits

A quick and easy method of growing sclerotia is by making use of a pre-inoculated and colonizedtruffle grow box. These are glass jars filled with a substrate of grass seed that is already colonized with a truffle forming psilocybe strain. All you need to do with such growkits is wait for the truffles to grow. When they are large enough to be harvested, the jar can be opened and the truffles can be harvested and cleaned.