Andrew, a 33-year-old from California, has suffered from anxiety and depression his entire life. He’d cycled through various meds and therapies, but nothing seemed to provide long-term relief — until, that is, his 33rd birthday, when his younger brother pulled out a bag of mushrooms.
“I thought he was crazy,” Andrew tells me. “I’d never done mushrooms before, but he called me a ‘little B’ until I gave in and tried them. I ended up experiencing a life changer; it really opened my eyes. I went through so many emotions that I’d been building up for years that I cried for like three hours.”
On the surface, that might sound like a terrible way to spend your birthday, but Andrew says he immediately went online to not only find an increasing amount of research into psilocybin’s positive effects on anxiety and depression, but anecdotal reports from a redditor called Shroomscout, who is leading something of a revolution on accessible mushrooms. “He’s taken the time and effort to make it so that almost anyone can successfully enter the hobby of cultivating and growing mushrooms, and is always around to give advice and feedback to people,” Andrew explains. “He is a kind man, and people look up to him.”
Shroomscout’s legend is widely shared on Reddit. It more or less goes like this: Six months ago, he found great relief from depression and suicidal ideation via microdosing pscilosybin mushrooms and wanted others to know they could do the same. The problem is, without a dealer, mushrooms are nearly impossible to attain, and growing them yourself is complex. Thus, Shroomscout decided to put his biochemistry degree to use for newbies by breaking down how to easily cultivate mushrooms with, of all things, Uncle Ben’s microwavable rice.
The Uncle Ben’s technique wasn’t exactly novel when Shroomscout created the subreddit, r/UncleBens, but it wasn’t something Andrew, or anyone else with zero knowledge of magic mushrooms, would have ever encountered either. “In other parts of the mushroom-growing community, the Uncle Ben’s [technique] has a less-than-stellar reputation,” says Walter, a pseudonymous 33-year-old who’s been cultivating mushrooms for years. “Many more experienced growers see it as a poor introduction to mycology that bypasses what many see as the fun, interesting and challenging aspects of the hobby.”
In other words, Shroomscout is the Jef Raskin of magic mushroom cultivation: He took an otherwise complicated-to-the-point-of-being-inaccessible process and made it easy for the average consumer.
And so, for the starter set — or people who just want to try microdosing without having to find a dealer or spend months learning about mushrooms and buying the necessary supplies for growing them — Shroomscout’s subreddit has become a saving grace. “What I love about r/UncleBens is how accessible and friendly it is for beginners,” Walter tells me. “So Scout is a hero in that community, because he provided instructions that are absurdly easy for people to follow.”
“There are various ways people use to achieve a similar goal of growing their own fruits,” Andrew says. “But this method is so simple and great for beginners. Literally follow the steps that Shroomscout has laid out, and the odds are in your favor of producing something to be proud of.”
In terms of how it works, cultivating mushrooms requires a sterile, nutrient-rich environment in which their spores can grow. Given that Uncle Ben’s rice — or any other brand’s, for that matter — is cooked, sterilized and inserted into vacuum-sealed bags that can sit at room temperature for a considerable amount of time, it more than fits the bill (if not exactly what Mars, Uncle Ben’s parent company, had in mind). It helps, too, that mushroom spores are legal to buy in 47 states (sorry those of you in California, Idaho and Georgia). They usually colonize in 11 to 20 days, and you’ll typically see actual mushrooms within a month or two.
To be fair, though, it’s not perfect. “It looked like a fun, easy way to start a batch of mushrooms, but my experience with Uncle Ben’s has been mixed,” says Brian, a 33-year-old in Virginia. “On my first attempt, I lost 10 bags that were overrun with mold. My second attempt ended even worse: All 16 bags failed due to bacterial contamination.”
In other words, you can’t just blast a syringe of mushroom spores into a bag of pre-cooked rice and expect them to grow. “Unfortunately, the appeal of this particular technique is that, when it works, it’s fairly straightforward and quick,” he continues. “It also doesn’t require any special equipment, and can be done somewhat discreetly. But it inspires a lot of impatience and anxiety, too. And to be successful at growing mushrooms, you have to be patient and genuinely enjoy the process itself.”
But for Andrew, microdosing his Uncle Ben’s bounty has pretty much provided everything he needs at the moment. “I found exactly what I was looking for,” he tells me. “It keeps my depression away and my anxiety under control without all the groovy stuff that comes with higher doses.”
Better yet, r/UncleBens has given him a place to safely fly his psilocybin flag. “I’ve found people there who I will most likely be friends with for many years to come,” he says. “I’ll even meet a few in my travels over the next few years. It’s just a very loving, laid-back group that tries to help each other and gives each other advice — from good music to listen to anything, really. It’s just all around good vibes.”