Cooking Lichen

Eating Bryoria spp.
Bryoria fremontii was eaten by different First People's in North America from British Columbia to California.  For many people Bryoria fremontii was only a famine food, but others ate this lichen as an important vegetable.  Virtually all people who ate Bryoria fremontii as a staple food had a very specific method to prepare it.  Minor variations on the following pit cooking method was used by the following First People's to prepare this lichen (see map):
Secwepemc (BC)
St’at’imc (BC)
Nlaka’pamun (BC)
Okanagan (BC,WA)
Schitsu’umsh (ID)
Flathead (MT)
Ila’xluit (WA)

Pit cook procedure
1.  Thoroughly clean lichen (soak, rinse, beat, scrub)
2.  Dig a large pit
3.  Heat up rocks in fire (Secwepemc method shown)
4.  The rocks burn through and fall into the pit (Secwepemc method)
5.  Cover rocks with dirt
6.  Insert stick into dirt
7.  Cover dirt with wet vegetation
8.  Add well cleaned lichen
9.  Add layer of root vegetable (yellow avalanche lily, wild onion, camas)
10.  Cover lichen with wet vegetation
11.  Cover with dirt
12.  Pull out stick
13.  Pour in water
14.  Cover hole
15.  Let sit for 12 h to 3 days
16.  Dig it out and ready to eat

It seems possible to me that the extensive washing could help remove vulpinic acid from the lichen, and that slowly cooking it with acidic root vegetables could help hydrolyze the complex lichen storage polysaccharides into more digestible simple sugers.

More information
    See the map of these uses
    Read more about these uses


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