Exploring the underbelly of Instagram is among my favorite activities. It leads you to the most visually fascinating corners of the interwebs, where Instagram models, influencers, and other people living their best (fake?) lives dare not embark. It’s the virtual place you go to tap into global drug culture: you can find people selling drugs on the platform; or, just as easily, you can find drug scammers, salivating for your money.
You can also find some of the world’s most elaborate, massive ‘shroom grows, where people wear hazmat suits while tending to jaw-dropping volumes of psilocybin. It was during one of my Instagram comb-throughs that I came upon a profile boasting the most exquisite psychedelic mushroom treats I've ever seen. The page goes by @TheMushroomBible.
I was completely and utterly entranced by what I saw: magnificent pictures of psilocybin mushroom-infused lollipops, gummy worms, psychedelic drinks, ‘shroom-infused jello, and more. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I’d stumbled upon the Willy Wonka of boomers. So, I obviously messaged them asking how I could buy some ‘shroom laced gummy worms. The professional photos and coherent sentences in the captions hinted that these people weren’t scammers — and even if they were, it’d be worth getting ripped off once to get my hands on some psychedelic gummy worms. (Fool me once, shame on you…)
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And now, for something completely different... This week, Dr Mandrake delivered a batch of fly agaric shrooms (amanita muscaria) he picked and dried on a trip. Ain’t they pretty? These bad boys grow near pine trees amongst others as they are ectomycorrhizal, meaning they form a symbiotic relationship with pine, cedar and fir trees. They are also poisonous at high doses, so you’ve got to be careful when tripping off these guys (and oh my, you certainly will trip). Have you guys ever taken them?
But the official clue that the mysterious people behind The Mushroom Bible were doing something much greater than trying to make a buck, hustle people, or simply post their mycelial creations online, was when they told me their products aren’t for sale. Rather, the images are clips from their upcoming magic mushroom recipe book, (hopefully) due to publish by the end of the year.
After doing more research on The Mushroom Bible, I learned that Dr. K. Mandrake and Virginia Haze are the duo behind this stellar Instagram. They’re located in the UK and have already published a book called The Psilocybin Mushroom Bible. The title of their impending recipe book and publish date has yet to be released, though you can bet we’ll be among the first to report on it as soon as it’s available.
In the meantime, we caught up with Dr. K. Mandrake and Virginia Haze to talk about their Instagram, The Psilocybin Mushroom Bible, the recipe book, shroom culture, and other topics of interest to psychonauts.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
MERRY JANE: How long have you two been involved in the mushroom community and when did you two decide to make that your focus?
Dr. K. Mandrake: I’ve been growing for a decade-and-a-half, starting from a small home grow that I (successfully) hid from my mother when I was a teenager. I’ve been refining my grow methods ever since.
Virginia Haze: I’m a little fresher to the ‘shroom community. I was previously a cannabis grower and journalist, but learned the “way of the mushroom” under the tutelage of Dr. K.
As dedicated psychonauts, we’ve always enjoyed exploring the effects of psychedelics, but we both found that psilocybin offered exactly what we were looking for. It was a short step to start growing mushrooms ourselves, as it is difficult to find them [in the UK].
We were spoiled, really, because Dr. K sourced most of the technical kit from periodic lab clean outs at his university, where everything would have been trashed — which taught us a lesson that out-of-date agar is totally fine to use for taking clean mushroom samples! We also figured out how to make home versions of things like still-air boxes and stir plates because one of us was a broke student and the other a broke writer. It made us better growers in the end!
Related: Photos of Psilocybin Magic and Psychedelic Delights via The Mushroom Bible
What do you have your PhD in, Dr. Mandrake?
Dr. K. Mandrake: I have a Ph.D in microbiology with a focus on mycology and environmental science. I’ve also been involved with the creation of several businesses growing edible mushrooms on waste substrates to reduce the carbon impact of our food. We’re essentially both just massive hippies who grew up in the wrong decade. Virginia has a BA in English Lit so she can give you a shit-hot take on Sylvia Plath any time you want it.
What’s the mushroom culture like in the UK? Is psilocybin an underground thing, or is it becoming more mainstream?
Virginia Haze: I wouldn’t really say there is a culture at all. Since magic mushrooms became illegal here in 2005, they’re very much considered a rare novelty — unless you hang out with us, where every fifth party is a mushroom party. The UK is different to North America (where I previously lived) in that the visible “substance use” culture has always tended towards hard drugs, whereas cannabis and ‘shrooms were more of a thing you did in your teens and early 20’s. The UK in the ‘90s were all about MDMA and speed; in the 2000s it was ketamine and m-cat, and now cocaine is making a comeback. Of course people smoke a lot of weed, but there is nothing like the same culture of it as there is in North America. As for mushrooms, it’s always been incredibly hard to find a supplier for them because there is relatively no demand here.
Dr. K. Mandrake: One thing that’s happening now is that people are moving towards ‘shrooms as a way to connect more with nature or with themselves. The people coming to us for information about growing are largely in their 30’s or 40’s. I think this is partially due to a shift towards environmentalism and self-sufficiency, as people become more interested in what naturally grows around where they live, and how they might use it. It is also because people want to move away from toxic recreational habits and towards those that might foster personal growth and help with any medical conditions they have.
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To round out the row, a final shot from our lovely reader; would you look at these #pftek cakes? This fantastic grower got 4 flushes from these cakes then ground them up and used them to inoculate a monotub; ingenious. Don’t forget to dunk your cakes like we show you in the book so you can get several flushes out of them! #goneshroomin #mycology #nature #mycophile #mushrooms #psychonaut #openyourmind #psilocybin #psilocybinmushroombible #mushroombible #shroomery #fresh #nom #psychedelia #shroomin #pftek #book #harvest #medicine #mushroomporn #shroomporn #monotub #manuremagic #b+ #monotubs #psilocybinmushrooms
Tell us about the new magic mushroom recipe book you have coming out.
Virginia Haze: The new book was driven by two things: the huge popularity of the few recipes we included in our first book, and my incapability of eating mushrooms in their dried form without projectile vomiting. When I started to develop what we call my “Hag Reflex,” I recruited Dr. K to help me find the best way to consume ‘shrooms that wouldn’t make me retch.
It started because every time we tripped together, we’d have dinner first and come up with a new way of consuming the ‘shrooms. At first this was just your usual teas and tinctures, then it was a smoothie here and there, then it transformed into things like Mocha Mushroom Brownies, then we started to put the ‘shrooms in the meals themselves — resulting in recipes like the Grilled Cheese ‘Shroomwich and the ‘Shroom and Squash Burger. We both love cooking so we started pairing mushrooms with things like blueberries, which go together profoundly well (FYI). We eventually ended up with more recipes than we knew what to do with.
@themushroombible Instagram is loaded with amazing, drool-worthy photos of gourmet psilocybin treats. This concept of “psilocybin edibles” seems pretty groundbreaking. Tell us more about that.
Virginia Haze: We didn’t really get into the idea of psilocybin-infused edibles until we started experimenting with microdosing. Our preferred method was to put some of our ethanol extraction into orange juice and then freeze it into dosed cubes; just throw one in your morning OJ and you’re away. But it’s weird to carry around a tiny amount of warm juice with you, and it’s gross to drink. So we started to think about what psilocybin edibles would look like.
It was a no-brainer to make the gummy bears (who doesn’t love gummy bears?!) but we also tried lollipops and found them to be fantastic. The benefit of these things is that you can just pop one or two into your mouth in public and no one is any the wiser. As we’re both vegan, we experimented first with vegan jelly but then moved onto using agar and fresh fruit juice, to make them that bit healthier. We have both vegan and non-vegan recipes in the book so people can choose what they want to consume.
Our favorite mushy edible is something we call Magic Carpets: psilocybin-infused dried fruit roll ups. We have recipes for both sour and non-sour in the forthcoming cookbook, but we reckon the sour ones are the absolute best.
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More experiments in #mushroomedibles for book 2: this time, Magic Carpets, aka 100% natural vegan fruit leather - infused with shrooms, of course! These aren’t subjected to any real heat, so there’s no drop off in potency. #shrooms #magicmushrooms #trippy #tripping #goneshroomin #mycology #nature #mycophile #mushrooms #psychonaut #openyourmind #psilocybin #psilocybinmushroombible #mushroombible #shroomery #fresh #nom #psychedelia #shroomin #pftek #book #harvest #medicine #edible #gummies #vegan #infusedmeals
Have you had any censorship issues on Instagram at all?
Virginia Haze: Only a couple. Social media has a very strange relationship to the counterculture right now, in that certain platforms will allow certain things and others not at all. We have been reprimanded once or twice for things that didn’t really make much sense, but largely we operate within their guidelines, and our posts reach those who might find the information helpful. It’s nothing compared to other groups whose livelihoods and safety rely on social media are experiencing right now. Look at the huge censorship that sex workers face. In a post FOSTA/SESTA-world, they’re seeing all their promotional channels removed, and it’s hard to see what this does that’s positive. In that context, any censorship we face feels minimal in comparison.
Tell us about The Psilocybin Mushroom Bible that’s already out. What motivated the creation of this book?
Dr. K. Mandrake: We realized that the few mushroom grow books available to the public were either horribly outdated or lacking in scope. For years, we had our eye out for a grow guide that taught the very basics, but also allowed the reader to branch out into bulk methods and more refined growing techniques. But we never found one, so we wrote it instead.
Virginia Haze: The first printing of the book is already sold out, which we never thought would happen. Honestly, the response has been overwhelming. We’ve found it on the bookshelves of mycology research sites across the world, and we’ve had such a positive response from people who’ve had difficulties growing, but thanks to the book, could finally do so. For everyone one-star review on Amazon complaining that we use the word “fuck” or that we wrote a book for “drug manufacterers,” there are 20 other people saying that we made them laugh while teaching them how to grow. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Friends do you realize it’s only 26 days til Christmas? Bagpuss says our book is the single best gift you can get the shroom lover in your life so quick, get in your order now! #shrooms #magicmushrooms #trippy #tripping #goneshroomin #mycology #nature #mycophile #mushrooms #psychonaut #openyourmind #psilocybin #psilocybinmushroombible #mushroombible #shroomery #fresh #nom #shroomin #pftek #book #harvest #medicine #spreadthelove #bookclub #expandyourmind
Why is it important for people to have access to this information?
Dr. K. Mandrake: It's important that people are informed and aware of the choices they have available to them. There are many reasons to use psilocybin in a treatment context, but we’re also believers in letting adults make their own informed choices about what happens to their bodies. Using psilocybin recreationally can be a positive part of a harm-reduction approach to substance use. After all, for a lot of people, mushrooms are safer than the drugs people take — even alcohol. Psilocybin can also have hugely positive effects in terms of longer-term mental well-being.
Dr. David Nutt is a fantastic leader in this way of thinking, and we greatly appreciate the work he’s done in this field. Essentially: you will never stop people from wanting to open the doors of perception, so we have to make sure that people are growing and consuming safely. Whilst it is possible to go and forage you own wild magic mushrooms, it can be difficult to find patches and the mistakes of misidentification can be fatal.
Have you heard any stories from your readers about mushrooms helping them in any way?
Virginia Haze: We hear stories from our readers every week. It’s the best part of being on social media! Something people often talk about is how psilocybin has helped them manage their severe headaches, and we’ve also heard anecdotally from readers dealing with depression related to cancer and other serious or terminal illnesses saying that ‘shrooms have helped them come to a better mental space. Microdosing is becoming a lot more popular, and readers tell us how they’re getting along with that, which is fascinating considering the literature on microdosing is unfortunately small. We’ve also had a few messages about people taking their first home-grown [mushrooms] out into nature and tripping for the first time with their partners. These stories make us smile because we’re hopeless romantics at heart.
The UK is among the few countries moving forward with psilocybin studies and clinical trials. Does this impact your work at all? Are you involved in these trials in any way?
Dr. K. Mandrake: We’re currently consulting for several organizations who are at the forefront of clinical research around the use of psilocybin and it’s a bit of a dream come true for us, as we are super passionate about expanding the medical knowledge of psychedelics. It’s incredible that over 50 years of fear-mongering and misinformation is finally receding to the extent that these kind of trials are happening. Just look at what’s happening in Denver! More states will surely follow. The mood is definitely shifting — and it’s not just psilocybin. It’s psychedelics in general.
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