Ethnolichenology of Bryoria fremontii: wisdom of elders, population ecology, and nutritional chemistry




Crawford, Stuart

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More than 300 species of lichens are used by people across the world. mostly as dyes or medicines. Some lichens are used as food, although previous studies indicate that lichens are indigestible to humans. Bryoria fremontii is an example of a lichen that is an important traditional food throughout its range. A literature review and interviews with a knowledgeable Seewepemc elder reveal that this lichen is traditionally harvested. washed, and cooked in specific ways that are deeply rooted in its ecology and chemistry. A population study indicates that the traditional practice of avoiding areas with light-coloured and greenish lichen selects for locations with Bryoria fremontii and avoids similar-looking toxic species. A cooking experiment suggests that cooking does not make lichen carbohydrates digestible, but when the lichen is cooked with other foods it can capture digestible carbohydrates from them that would otherwise be lost, thus increasing available carbohydrates by 23-122%.



Lichens, Indians of North America