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Full Review
The Mushroom Cultivator
by J.S. Chilton and Paul Stamets
Agarikon Press 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Justin Case, 9/21/2006

If you were to buy only one book on mushroom cultivation, this would be it. Armed with The Mushroom Cultivator, absolute beginners will not need any other book, as Chilton and Stamets provide all that the reader needs to know from the beginning to the end of the mushroom-growing process. Although psilocybian mushrooms are included, these are neither the exclusive nor main focus of the book. For the most part, the authors focus on legal edible mushrooms that can be grown openly in the home or yard.

It should be mentioned that this book does not cover the popular “pf tek”—the “psilocybe fanaticus technique,” also known as the “jar tek.” This is a simple technique that involves filling canning jars with substrate and inoculating them with syringes of spores suspended in water. Readers interested in this technique—which is pound for pound the easiest and most practical—will find all they need to know at related websites. The Mushroom Cultivator was originally published in 1983, years before the “pf tek” was invented.

The techniques that Chilton and Stamets do cover include the use of agar petri dish culture, culture slants, casing, grain spawn, composting, log-plugging and more. There is also a wealth of advice on mushroom contaminants—how to spot them and how to deal with them. So while the book does not include the simplest of techniques, it certainly covers techniques suitable for both beginners and for those looking to expand their hobby beyond beginners’ methods.

Paul Stamets has also written Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, which is similar in scope but probably better as a second choice. Besides authoring a number of other books, including Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World, Stamets runs Fungi Perfecti, a company that offers kits for growing mushrooms at home, a variety of mushroom literature, technical supplies, and educational seminars.

Stamets and Chilton are obviously sincerely interested in the general topic of mushrooms and in the cultivation of all edible varieties. The information on edible mushrooms in The Mushroom Cultivator is not included as a smoke-screen for the information provided on the nurturing of psylocybian mushrooms, nor are hallucinogenic varieties referred to cryptically. Rather, psilocybian mushrooms are simply presented as one of many types of mushrooms that can be grown at home using simple techniques. This is by no means a drug manufacturing guidebook disguised as a book on edible mushroom cultivation, nor is it one that distances itself from the cultivation of psilocybian mushrooms.

If you want to grow mushrooms at home and the “pf tek” is good enough for you, this book is unnecessary, although interesting. If you have got the hang of the “pf tek” but you are interested in trying other techniques and approaches, The Mushroom Cultivator comes highly recommended.

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