The PF Tek

Several versions of the PF Tek are floating around on the web, and unfortunately many new cultivators have been misguided by out of date versions, or butchered versions uploaded by cultivators who don't understand the reasons behind the processes involved.  I will be detailing the current method that is generally recommended for new cultivators by the mycological community.

The PF Tek is a low cost, low risk entry level method of cultivation.  It is also low yield when compared to more biologically efficient bulk methods.  The PF Tek will still easily provide a large enough harvest for the average family to enjoy a fine meal.



Equipment Needed:

1/2 pint canning jars (the short wide mouthed jars are preferred, jars MUST have straight walls)
OR
1/2 pint PP5 plastic food storage containers, such as those made by Ziplock or Gladware (PP5 material is a must in order to survive the sterilization process)

Large Stock Pot
OR
Pressure Cooker with 15psi setting (I recommend getting a big pressure cooker that will hold several quart jars if you choose this route because the Pressure Cooker is mandatory when you move on to bulk and need to sterilize grains)

Aluminum Foil
Power Drill with 5/32 Drill Bit (you can also use a hammer and small nail for metal jar lids)
Vermiculite (fine or premium grade, larger vermiculite, such as horticultural grade can be placed in a blender or grinder)  NOTE:  The horticultural grade vermiculite at Lowes is actually considered fine or premium grade by nursery standards.
Brown Rice Flour (can be made by grinding brown rice in a grinder)
Mixing Bowl
Big Spoon

The Process:

Step 1:  Drill 4 holes equally spaced around the edge of the lid.  You will use these holes to inoculate the cakes with mushrooms spores or a liquid culture later.

Step 2:  You will now mix the substrate to be put in your jars.  The recipe is 2 parts vermiculite, 1 part water, 1 part brown rice flour.  If you measure out each part as 1 cup, you will have enough for 5 jars.  Mix the water and vermiculite first to help keep the brown rice flour from clumping up in the water.  When fully mixed, the vermiculite/water mixture should feel moist to the touch, and only produce a few drops of water when squeezed.  If your mix is overly wet, add more vermiculite.  It is better for a substrate to be too dry than too wet.  Once this moisture level has been achieved with the vermiculite and water, add in your brown rice flour and mix well, ensuring that you coat the moist vermiculite well.

Step 3:  Now you will load your jars.  You want to load each jar without packing the mixture in, and leave 1/2" of space at the top.  Once this is done, take a paper towel and wipe off that 1/2" space, then fill to the brim with dry vermiculite.  This dry vermiculite will act as a barrier against contaminates.  Place the lid on the jars, and wrap the top half of the jar in tin foil.

Step 4:  This will be explained in 2 parts.  If you are using a stock pot, read part 1, if you are using a pressure cooker, read part 2.

PART 1:  Place jar rings or a steam rack inside the pot that will keep the jars above the water.  We are going to steam sterilize the jars as boiling will cook the substrate and make it difficult for the mushroom mycelium to colonize later.

Add 1-2 inches of water

Place your substrate jars on top of your spacer, making sure that they are above the water and place a tight fitting lid on the pot.  Make sure to use a tight fitting lid so that the steam does not escape and cause the water to boil out.  If your pot appears that it will boil dry, add hot tap water as needed.

Turn your burner on high.  Once the water begins boiling, turn the burner down to a simmer, and start a timer for 120 minutes.

When the timer goes off, keep the lid on the pot, remove it from the hot burner, and allow it to cool over night.  Remove the foil from the jars once cooled.

PART 2:  Place jar rings or a steam rack into the pressure cooker to keep the jars above the water.  Add at least the minimum amount of water required for your pressure cooker model (see your instruction manual if this is not marked on the cooker itself).

Place jars inside above the water line and place the lid on the pressure cooker.  Allow it to vent steam for 10 minutes before putting the weight toggle on.   Set your timer for 60 minutes.  Once the timer goes off, remove the pressure cooker from the burner and allow to cool over night.  Remove the foil from the jars once cooled.

INOCULATION

For this you will need the following:

Spore Syringe or Liquid Culture Syringe
A Lighter or Alcohol Lamp
Alcohol Wipes
Latex Gloves
Surgical Mask

Step 1:  Ensure that the air in the room you will perform inoculations in is still.  This means turn off any heater or air conditioning units at least an hour before hand.  You can also use a glove box, still air box, or flowhood to perform inoculations.

Step 2:  Put on your surgical mask, wash your hands, put on your latex gloves, and light your alcohol lamp should you be using one.  Shake your syringe to ensure an even distribution of the spores or mycelium inside.

Step 3:  Using the alcohol lamp or lighter, heat the tip of the syringe needle until the very tip of it is red hot.  Once the needle is red hot, set it down and wipe the top of the jar to be inoculated with an alcohol wipe.  Once you have wiped the top of the jar, the needle should be cool enough to perform the inoculation for that jar.

Step 4:  If using a spore syringe, inject .25cc into each of the 4 holes.  If using liquid culture, inject 1cc into each of the 4 holes.  Try to get the tip of the needle against the edge of the container so that you can see the inoculation site.

Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each jar to be inoculated.

Now that your jars have been inoculated, set them out on a shelf or on a table where they will get ambient light, and keep the room temperature between 70f and 80f.  If it is difficult for you to keep the room above 65f, you can make an incubator by filling a tub part way with water, placing an aquarium heater in the water, then placing another tub inside so that the bottom is in contact with the water.  Adjust the heater as necessary to keep the temperature inside the second tub above 70f, but below 80f.

It can take up to 14 days to see growth from spores.  Once the surface of the jars have been fully colonized, let them sit for 1 week to consolidate the center of the substrate.  Some jars will finish before the others, so be ready to birth them as they finish the consolidation period.  Some jars may pin before they are birthed, if this happens before full colonization, give the jar a few days, then birth it.  If you see any growth in the jar that is not white, such as green, black, orange, slimey, or cottony grey, the jar has become contaminated and should be thrown away.  Do not open a contaminated jar indoors.  Boil the jar for 2 hours, then open outdoors to dispose of the contaminated substrate.  The jar may be cleaned and reused.

When your cakes are ready to birth (finished the consolidation period), open the jar and under gently running tap water, rinse away the dry vermiculite and any uncolonized substrate.  Sometimes the mycelium will try to colonize the dry vermiculite, this is a good sign.  Sometimes you will find contaminates on the dry vermiculite, just wash them away thoroughly.  Place the rinsed cakes into a pot of water and weigh them down with a plate to keep them submerged for 24 hours.  This is to rehydrate the cakes before fruiting.

Once the cakes have been submerged in water for 24 hours, rinse them off once again and roll them in dry vermiculite.  The dry vermiculite will help create a micro climate that will help induce pinning.  Place the cakes into your fruiting chamber.  For new cultivators, I recommend the Shotgun Fruiting Chamber.

It can take up to 14 days to see pins.

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