by VS Naipaul
304pp, Picador, £16.99
Magic Seeds is a sequel to Half a Life, in which Willie Chandran has travelled from India to become a student in London, and published a book of stories. Later on he marries a woman of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry, lives in her Portuguese African colony for 18 years, and at the point of the colony’s independence, leaves to join his sister in Berlin.
This is where Magic Seeds begins. Willie’s sister Sarojini, an indefatigable critic of his passivity and lack of commitment, is now a leftwing film-maker, with access to revolutionaries all over the world. Inspired by her diatribes, Willie agrees to go back to India to join a guerrilla band. Typically, he joins the wrong group and undergoes a long period of aimless marching, murder and hiding out in the forest. Years later he escapes and is imprisoned. His sister, however, recruits Roger, an English lawyer and publisher who had known Willie during his student life. In a short while he is on a plane to London, where Roger finds him a rich patron and a job on a trade journal. The book ends with Willie reflecting on his life and on Britain’s new multi-racial identity.
Behind the story is an odd sleight-of-hand. Famously, the young Naipaul saw himself as escaping from a culturally insignificant world – coming home to a European society grounded in a classical culture, which he understood better than most. Since then his writing has waged war against “inferior cultures” and individuals. Naipaul himself was absolutely clear that he belonged to a superior tradition, and in his fiction his voice was that of the unmoved mover, a godlike narrator from the upper regions who knows all and sees all.
However, Magic Seeds introduces a curiously chastened commentary. Willie realises that there are two worlds, but unlike the young Naipaul’s protagonists Willie understands something else. “The two worlds co-existed. It was foolish to pretend otherwise. He was clear in his own mind now to which world he belonged. It had seemed natural to him 20 years and more years ago, at home, to want to hide. Now all that followed from that wish seemed shameful.”
As if to make certain we don’t miss the point Willie follows this up with a reference to an earlier book, An Area of Darkness , where the author watches some low-caste Indian sweepers and notes that they were simply spreading the dirt around. This, he comments, was not cleaning. The sweepers were there to symbolise their status as sweepers. In this country, he thinks, western notions like efficiency are swamped by the dominance of tradition.
In Magic Seeds , Willie arriving in India sees a sweeper operating in the same manner, “giving the floor a suggestion of thinly spread grime”, and the sight prompts the reflection that: “Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have seen what I am seeing now. I have come from a world of waste and appearances. I saw quite clearly some time ago that it was a simple world, where people had been simplified. I must not go back on that vision. I must understand that now I am among people of more complicated beliefs and social ideas, and at the same time in a world stripped of all style and artifice. This is an airport. It works. It is full of technically accomplished people. That is what I must see.”
The movement between these two different ways of seeing might have been interesting, but while Willie continues to criticise his former self, his conclusions don’t actually represent any important shift in his opinions. It’s as if the author, reading his more hostile critics, has set out to prove himself capable of responding to the contemporary world. The difficulty is that he isn’t.
Willie’s guerrilla comrades, for instance, turn out to be frustrated bureaucrats with domestic problems; or student dropouts, terrorising an intimidated but politically indifferent peasantry. Back in London, Willie is befriended by Roger, who he regards as a man “of inherited liberal ideas”. But Roger regales him with a rightwing history of contemporary Britain – “There was a time when a substantial proportion of the population was in domestic service. There was no problem then.”
Appropriately perhaps, Roger also has a lust for “council-estate women” of “plebeian aspect”. While taking in his patron’s blimpish musings, Willie notices that the appearance of London’s population has changed: “There were black people everywhere, and Japanese; and people who looked like Arabs.”
Typically, however, the book’s attempts to explain multi-racial Britain seem to be located within a depressingly archaic framework of ideas about race. Marcus, a former acquaintance, has now become a respected and world- renowned African diplomat. But Marcus, as Roger carefully explains, has only had one ambition throughout his life – to have a white grandchild. This ambition is now fulfilled through his son Lyndhurst, who is “big-chested, thuggish looking, with Africa half scrubbed off him”. Lyndhurst’s girlfriend, the scion of an impoverished aristocratic family, has had a daughter, and the subsequent wedding takes place in their ruined and abandoned country house.
The priest has a “faraway plebeian accent”, and during the ceremony, while someone reads a Shakespeare sonnet, one of the pages farts. Afterwards a Caribbean band begins to play, and “fair women in new frocks were swinging their slender shanks”. Willie goes to bed hearing this “slave music” and reflecting on his past – “In the morning all he was left with was: ‘It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world. That’s where the mischief starts’.”
It’s a conclusion which is hard to sympathise with or even to understand from a novelist with Naipaul’s cast of mind, but Magic Seeds seems to represent some sort of struggle to reassess and defend his life’s work. In the end the enterprise is a failure, largely because the author has nothing new or interesting to offer. There may be many reasons to admire the body of Naipaul’s writing. This book is not one of them.
· Mike Phillips’s London Crossings: A Biography of Black Britain is published by Continuum.
<p>VS Naipaul's post-colonial culture clash, Magic Seeds, drifts towards a sterile conclusion, says Mike Phillips.</p>
Growing Psilocybin Mushrooms
(Magic mushrooms, Shrooms, psilocybin)
/3-(2-Dimethylaminoethyl)-1H-indol-4-yl/ dihydrogen phosphate
If you don’t know how to grow psilocybin mushrooms at home, you may be tempted to start with a mushroom grow kit. These ready-to-use packs contain a living mycelium substrate (the material underlying mushroom growth) that, in theory, you just need to keep humid.
In reality, you’re better off starting from scratch. Making your own substrate is not only more consistent but, if you do it right, it should be less prone to contamination as well. There’s also not a huge difference in price and you’ll end up learning a lot more.
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This guide is based on Robert “Psylocybe Fanaticus” McPherson’s eponymous PF Tek—the method that revolutionized growing mushrooms indoors. McPherson’s key innovation was to add vermiculite to a grain-based substrate (as opposed to using grain alone), giving the mycelium more space to grow and mimicking natural conditions. Although his method is a little more labor-intensive than others, often for a lower yield, its simplicity, low cost, and reliability make it ideally suited to beginners. It also makes use of readily available materials and ingredients, many of which you may already have.
The one thing you might have trouble getting is a good spore syringe. This will contain your magic mushroom spores and be used to “sow” them into the substrate. Some growers have reported issues of contamination, misidentified strains, and even syringes containing nothing but water. However, as long as you do your research and find a reputable supplier, you shouldn’t have any problems.
In any case, after you’ve grown your first batch (or flush) of mushrooms, you can start filling syringes of your own (see part 4).
WHAT VARIETY SHOULD I CHOOSE?
As you learn how to grow psilocybin mushrooms indoors, you’ll want to decide on a species and strain. Most suppliers offer a range to choose from, but the Psilocybe cubensis B+ and Golden Teacher mushrooms are among the most popular for beginners. While not as potent as some others, like Penis Envy, they’re reportedly more forgiving of sub-optimal and changeable conditions.
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What You Will Need
- Spore syringe, 10-12 cc
- Organic brown rice flour
- Vermiculite, medium/fine
- Drinking water
- 12 Shoulderless half-pint jars with lids (e.g. Ball or Kerr jelly or canning jars)
- Hammer and small nail
- Measuring cup
- Mixing bowl
- Heavy-duty tin foil
- Large cooking pot with a tight lid, for steaming
- Small towel (or approx. 10 paper towels)
- Micropore tape
- Clear plastic storage box, 50-115L
- Drill with ¼-inch drill bit
- Mist spray bottle
- Rubbing alcohol
- Butane/propane torch lighter
- Surface disinfectant
- Air sanitizer
- Sterilized latex gloves (optional)
- Surgical mask (optional)
- Still air or glove box (optional)
NOTE: Always ensure good hygiene before starting: spray an air sanitizer, thoroughly disinfect your equipment and surfaces, take a shower, brush your teeth, wear clean clothes, etc. You don’t need a lot of space, but your environment should be as sterile as possible. Opportunistic bacteria and molds can proliferate in conditions for cultivating shrooms, so it’s crucial to minimize the risk.
STEP 1: PREPARATION
1) Prepare jars:
- With the hammer and nail (which should be wiped with alcohol to disinfect) punch four holes down through each of the lids, evenly spaced around their circumferences.
2) Prepare substrate:
- For each jar, thoroughly combine ⅔ cup vermiculite and ¼ cup water in the mixing bowl. Drain excess water using the disinfected strainer.
- Add ¼ cup brown rice flour per half-pint jar to the bowl and combine with the moist vermiculite.
3) Fill jars:
- Being careful not to pack too tightly, fill the jars to within a half-inch of the rims.
- Sterilize this top half-inch with rubbing alcohol
- Top off your jars with a layer of dry vermiculite to insulate the substrate from contaminants.
4) Steam sterilize:
- Tightly screw on the lids and cover the jars with tin foil. Secure the edges of the foil around the sides of the jars to prevent water and condensation from getting through the holes.
- Place the small towel (or paper towels) into the large cooking pot and arrange the jars on top, ensuring they don’t touch the base.
- Add tap water to a level halfway up the sides of the jars and bring to a slow boil, ensuring the jars remain upright.
- Place the tight-fitting lid on the pot and leave to steam for 75-90 minutes. If the pot runs dry, replenish with hot tap water.
NOTE: Some growers prefer to use a pressure cooker set for 60 minutes at 15 PSI.
5) Allow to cool:
- After steaming, leave the foil-covered jars in the pot for several hours or overnight. They need to be at room temperature before the next step.
STEP 2: INOCULATION
1) Sanitize and prepare syringe:
- Use a lighter to heat the length of your syringe’s needle until it glows red hot. Allow it to cool and wipe it with alcohol, taking care not to touch it with your hands.
- Pull back the plunger a little and shake the syringe to evenly distribute the magic mushroom spores.
NOTE: If your spore syringe and needle require assembly before use, be extremely careful to avoid contamination in the process. Sterilized latex gloves and a surgical mask can help, but the surest way is to assemble the syringe inside a disinfected still air or glove box.
2) Inject spores:
- Remove the foil from the first of your jars and insert the syringe as far as it will go through one of the holes.
- With the needle touching the side of the jar, inject approximately ¼ cc of the spore solution (or slightly less if using a 10 cc syringe across 12 jars).
- Repeat for the other three holes, wiping the needle with alcohol between each.
- Cover the holes with micropore tape and set the jar aside, leaving the foil off.
- Repeat the inoculation process for the remaining jars, sterilizing your needle with the lighter, and then alcohol between each.
STEP 3: COLONIZATION
1) Wait for the mycelium:
- Place your inoculated jars somewhere clean and out of the way. Avoid direct sunlight and temperatures outside 70-80 °F (room temperature).
- White, fluffy-looking mycelium should start to appear between seven and 14 days, spreading outward from the inoculation sites.
NOTE: Watch out for any signs of contamination, including strange colors and smells, and dispose of any suspect jars immediately. Do this outside in a secure bag without unscrewing the lids. If you’re unsure about whether a jar is contaminated, always err on the side of caution—even if the substrate is otherwise healthily colonized—as some contaminants are deadly for humans.
- After three to four weeks, if all goes well, you should have at least six successfully colonized jars. Leave for another seven days to allow the mycelium to strengthen its hold on the substrate.
STEP 4: PREPARING THE GROW CHAMBER
1) Make a shotgun fruiting chamber:
- Take your plastic storage container and drill ¼-inch holes roughly two inches apart all over the sides, base, and lid. To avoid cracking, drill your holes from the inside out into a block of wood.
- Set the box over four stable objects, arranged at the corners to allow air to flow underneath. You may also want to cover the surface under the box to protect it from moisture leakage.
NOTE: The shotgun fruiting chamber is far from the best design, but it’s quick and easy to build and does the job well for beginners. Later, you may want to try out alternatives.
2) Add perlite:
- Place your perlite into a strainer and run it under the cold tap to soak.
- Allow it to drain until there are no drips left, then spread it over the base of your grow chamber.
- Repeat for a layer of perlite roughly 4-5 inches deep.
STEP 5: FRUITING
1) “Birth” the colonized substrates (or “cakes”):
- Open your jars and remove the dry vermiculite layer from each, taking care not to damage your substrates, or “cakes”, in the process.
- Upend each jar and tap down onto a disinfected surface to release the cakes intact.
2) Dunk the cakes:
- Rinse the cakes one at a time under a cold tap to remove any loose vermiculite, again taking care not to damage them.
- Fill your cooking pot, or another large container, with tepid water, and place your cakes inside. Submerge them just beneath the surface with another pot or similar heavy item.
- Leave the pot at room temperature for up to 24 hours for the cakes to rehydrate.
3) Roll the cakes:
- Remove the cakes from the water and place them on a disinfected surface.
- Fill your mixing bowl with dry vermiculite.
- Roll your cakes one by one to fully coat them in vermiculite. This will help to keep in the moisture.
4) Transfer to grow chamber:
- Cut a tin foil square for each of your cakes, large enough for them to sit on without touching the perlite.
- Space these evenly inside the grow chamber.
- Place your cakes on top and gently mist the chamber with the spray bottle.
- Fan with the lid before closing.
5) Optimize and monitor conditions:
- Mist the chamber around four times a day to keep the humidity up, taking care not to soak your cakes with water.
- Fan with the lid up to six times a day, especially after misting, to increase airflow.
NOTE: Some growers use fluorescent lighting set on a 12-hour cycle, but indirect or ambient lighting during the day is fine. Mycelium only needs a little light to determine where the open air is and where to put forth mushrooms.
STEP 6: HARVESTING
1) Watch for fruits:
- Your mushrooms, or fruits, will appear as tiny white bumps before sprouting into “pins.” After 5-12 days, they’ll be ready to harvest.
2) Pick your fruits:
- When ready, cut your mushrooms close to the cake to remove. Don’t wait for them to reach the end of their growth, as they’ll begin to lose potency as they mature.
NOTE: The best time to harvest mushrooms is right before the veil breaks. At this stage, they’ll have light, conical-shaped caps and covered gills.
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Psilocybin mushrooms tend to go bad within a few weeks in the fridge. So if you plan to use them for microdosing or you just want to save them for later, you’ll need to think about storage. The most effective method for long-term storage is drying. This should keep them potent for two to three years as long as they’re kept in a cool, dark, dry place. If they’re stored in the freezer, they’ll pretty much last indefinitely.
The lo-fi way to dry your mushrooms is to leave them out on a sheet of paper for a few days, perhaps in front of a fan. The problem with this method is they won’t get “cracker dry.” That is, they won’t snap when you try to bend them, which means they’ll still retain some moisture. They may also significantly diminish in potency, depending on how long you leave them out. Using a dehydrator is by far the most efficient method, but those can be expensive. A good alternative is to use a desiccant as follows:
- Air dry your mushrooms for 48 hours, ideally with a fan.
- Place a layer of desiccant into the base of an airtight container. Readily available desiccants include silica gel kitty litter and anhydrous calcium chloride, which you can purchase from hardware stores.
- Place a wire rack or similar set-up over the desiccant to keep your mushrooms from touching it.
- Arrange your mushrooms on the rack, ensuring they’re not too close together, and seal the container.
- Wait for a few days, then test to see if they’re cracker dry.
- Transfer to storage bags (e.g. Ziploc, vacuum-sealed) and place in the freezer.
REUSING THE SUBSTRATE
After your first flush, the same cakes can be re-used up to three times. Simply dry them out for a few days and repeat Step 5.2 (dunking). But don’t roll them in the vermiculite; just place them back in the grow chamber and mist and fan as before. When you start to see contaminants (usually around the third re-use), drench the cakes with the mister spray and dispose of them outside in a secure bag.
MAKING SPORE SYRINGES
Filling your own psilocybin spore syringes is about as self-sufficient as it gets.
First, you’ll need to take a spore print from a mature mushroom, i.e. one that’s been allowed to grow until its cap has opened out and the edges are upturned. You should also notice an accumulation of dark purple deposits around the base. These are the magic mushroom spores.
To collect them, remove the cap with a flame-sterilized scalpel and place it gills down on a sterile paper sheet. Cover with a disinfected glass or jar to protect it from the air and leave for 24 hours. Keep the resulting spore print out of light in an airtight plastic bag.
To load a spore syringe, scrape some of the spore print into a sterile glass of distilled water. You can find this at auto supply stores. Then fill your syringe (which should also be sterile) and empty it back into the glass several times to evenly distribute the spores. Fill it a final time and place it inside an airtight plastic bag. Leave at room temperature for a few days to allow the spores to hydrate. You can then keep the syringe in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. It should last at least two months.
ADAPTATIONS AND ALTERNATIVES
Numerous modifications have been made to the PF Tek method, both to increase yield and to make things easier. Different species also tend to produce better with different substrates and conditions.
The main alternative to the basic PF Tek is the monotub method, which involves spawning to bulk on coir (coconut fiber extract), manure, straw, or some other fresh and nutritious substrate. Eventually, you may want to experiment with some of these other methods, but the PF Tek is a good introduction for now.
How long does it take to grow magic mushrooms at home?
The time it takes for your mycelium-colonized substrate to put forth harvestable fruits depends on several factors. But the whole process of cultivating mushrooms should take between 1-2 months.
When to harvest shrooms?
You should be able to harvest your fruits 5-12 days after they first begin to sprout from the mushroom substrate.
The trick is to harvest them before the veil breaks, i.e before they fully mature and release their spores. In other words, the gills should still be covered. At this stage, your mushrooms should also have light, conical caps.
How to make a spore syringe?
We’ve included instructions for making a spore syringe above. You’ll need a sterilized knife or scalpel, a sterile paper sheet, and a disinfected glass or jar to gather psilocybin spores from a mushroom allowed to mature. Add the mushroom spores to a glass of distilled water and load your sterile syringe from that. After leaving it at room temperature for a few days to hydrate, you can store it in the fridge for at least a couple of months.
How to grow psilocybin mushrooms at home without spores?
Use a Psilocybe cubensis grow kit if you don’t want to add the mushroom spores yourself. The typical cubensis grow kit comes with an already colonized substrate for growing mushrooms in a box. They’re available for different cubensis varieties, as well as different species.
But magic mushroom grow kits are not without their critics.
What’s wrong with using a magic mushroom grow kit?
Despite their seeming convenience, magic mushroom grow kits are widely seen as a waste of money. Even if they work out at roughly the same price as starting from scratch, their contents and quality are uncertain. They can also be more prone to contamination.
Going by user reports, they may not even work. At best, they yield inconsistent results. Aside from anything else, using a cubensis grow kit won’t teach you how to cultivate magic mushrooms from scratch.
What is the best mushroom substrate?
Although tried and tested by generations of mushroom growers, the brown rice flour and vermiculite substrate may not be the best choice for everyone. It depends on your priorities. Brown rice flour is good for growing in bulk, but coir may be cheaper and easier to use. Then there’s whole brown rice (not flour), which supposedly yields more potent fruits.
Pasteurized horse manure is another good option since it’s high in phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. And throwing spent coffee grounds into the mix (up to a quarter of the whole) could help speed up colonization. Of course, spent coffee grounds are economical too; 99% of coffee biomass that doesn’t end up in the cup is usually just thrown away.
Some growers say the best mushroom substrate is crammed full of nutritional diversity. However, too many nutrients from too many different sources can lead to contamination. As a beginner, you’re better off keeping things simple–not to mention cheap enough for trial and error.
What’s the difference between magic mushroom spawn and substrate?
As you learn more about growing mushrooms indoors, you’re likely to see the terms ‘spawn’ and ‘substrate’ used seemingly interchangeably (or just incorrectly).
Put simply, your ‘substrate’ (the brown rice flour/vermiculite cakes in the PF Tek method) becomes ‘spawn’ if it’s used to colonize a second, ‘bulk substrate’ (coir, manure, etc.) in the fruiting chamber.
If you’re fruiting directly from the cakes, as directed by this guide, your mushroom substrate remains the ‘substrate’ even after removal from the jars.
What are the best Psilocybe cubensis strains?
As mentioned in the guide, some of the most popular P. cubensis strains (or varieties) for beginners are the B+ and Golden Teacher mushrooms. Experienced growers may prefer Penis Envy.
However, as with your choice of substrate, the best cubensis strain for you will depend on your priorities for cultivating mushrooms. See here and here for more information.
How to grow magic truffles?
Forget about growing mushrooms in a box; truffles are often grown in jars instead of a fruiting chamber. See this tek for details. Another key difference to the PF Tek as outlined above is the use of boiled rye grain (aka rye berries) substrate.
Popular truffle varieties include P. mexicana and P. tampanensis, also known as ‘philosopher’s stones’.
Where can I find supplies for growing mushrooms?
One of the great things about the PF Tek method is that supplies are widely available. What you haven’t already got lying around the house can be found at your local hardware store.
The only thing you’ll need a specialist supplier for is your first load of psilocybin spores. The best way to find a reputable one is through forums.
For support and advice throughout the growing process, visit shroomery.org
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Learn how you can grow your own Psilocybin Mushrooms at home! This guide is intended only for the legal cultivation of Psilocybin Mushrooms.