Pink Oyster mushrooms in the grow room at Culture Shrooms on First Street. Photo by Matt Miller.

A very long time ago I ran into a guy I knew. He said to me: “we’re friends right?” I agreed. He said: “you trust me, right?” I had no reason not to trust him, so again I agreed.

He had a shininess about him. A glazed, stress-free vibe that was peaceful in that moment, considering he was a rather intimidating fella.

He ushered me into a gangway between two buildings and requested that I close my eyes, and open my mouth. Now, I have trust issues to begin with, but I also didn’t have many friends, so my naive 22-year-old-self did as I was asked.

My friend tossed something into my mouth that was dry and had the pungency of horse sh*t and I thought I’d been pranked. Then like a drill sergeant he started demanding “chew-chew-chew-chew!!!” Followed by “swallow-swallow-swallow!!!”  And I did. I opened my eyes to see his index finger jetting toward my nose, stopping only inches away.

“You’re shroom’n!”

It was then that I realized that his eyes were like saucers and his glazed vibe a wondrous euphoria, and I had in fact been pranked — jokingly dosed with psychedelic mushrooms.

That moment marked my first foray into the world of adaptogens. And if you have an interest in adaptogens, you’re in luck. There’s a new shop at 408 E. First St. that is everything you will ever need having to do with mushrooms.  It’s important to point out that not all adaptogenic mushrooms contain psilocybin — the chemical structured tryptamine compound responsible for hallucinations. In fact, most adaptogenic mushrooms aren’t psychotropic at all, but their effects on our minds and bodies can be significant. And those are the type of ‘shrooms in which this shop specializes.

Adaptogens are natural substances used in herbal medicine that help the body adapt to stress and exert a normalizing and calming effect on the psychological process.

“Most mushrooms are adaptogenic, meaning they assist the body and mind in adapting to stressors, assisting the body and brain toward homeostasis,” said Omar Othman, 30, an entrepreneur and owner of Culture Shrooms, which opened in May of 2021.

Othman’s interest in consuming adaptogenic mushrooms began when he was about 18, when he started seeking out mushrooms in horse stables to study, fueling his interest in being an aspiring mycologist. “I was fascinated by what fungi can do,” he said, referring to the intricacy of mycelial communities (the network of fungal threads that often grow underground).

Culture Shrooms is a small shop with a mushroom bar at the entrance offering mushroom-infused cold brew coffee and mushroom teas for sipping your stress away.

The book table has everything you could want for your mushroom reading pleasure from cooking with mushrooms, to discovering exotic edible mushrooms, foraging guides, and yes, even books on psilocybin.

Read all about mushroom at the store’s book table. Photo by Matt Miller.

“The industry needed a hub for mushrooms, a place for education and mushroom brands,” Othman told me in an email, explaining that “there was a massive void in [both] supply of growing supplies, and natural reputable supplements.” A showroom of all things mushroom, Culture Shrooms offers adaptogenic mushroom concentrates, shots, drinks, teas, infused coffees, mixes, tinctures, mushroom jerkies, powdered mixes, mushroom sprays, extracts, mushroom dietary supplements, gummies, and capsules; for immunity, energy, mind clearing, organ support, blood sugar, stress  management, hormonal balance, respiratory support, fatigue, cognitive function, comprehension, and beauty.

They also offer mushroom bracelets, necklaces, tees, mugs, socks, earrings and pillows making this a one-stop-shop for the mushroom fanatic in your life. Most importantly, the small shop also has a grow room where they sell growing supplies ranging from spore bags to pop-up grow houses, and even fully grown adaptogenic mushrooms which can be purchased by the pound ($20).

Right now they have two different kinds of Lion’s Mane mushrooms growing, identified by their powder puff look, and popular for their aid in building mental clarity and cognitive function — meaning they make you more sharp and stave-off dementia.

Culture Shroom shroomelier Tanner Riach. Photo by Matt Miller.

If you’re curious about mushrooms, Culture Shrooms will also be offering classes, their first one being an intro to mushroom growing class, discussing how to make a grow bag at home. Be sure to check out their website, or stop in for details.

This started me thinking: with all this mushroom stuff that is sure to calm your mind and enable you to manage stress and health, how are you going to use it?  While the staff at Culture Shrooms is more than capable at explaining what each tincture, extract, and tea can do and how to use them, as well as which fungi are best for what, I started wondering what else one could do with this new cornucopia of adaptogenic mushroom magic.

Adaptogens 101, by Marisa Chaela. An online cookbook that you can download ($20) will give you recipes, answer questions, and teach you how to cook to live an adaptogenic life.

Culture Shrooms, 408 E. First St. 562-607-8961. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.