Cetraria islandica (L.) Ach.;

Fruits & Vegetable week: Iceland Moss: Iceland Moss Cetraria islandica is not a moss, but lichen, a symbiotic association between algae and fungus. is a circumpolar plant abundant throughout the arctic and mountains regions of the northern countries. It is found on the mountains of north Wales, north England, Scotland and south-west Ireland. In North America its range extends through Arctic regions, from Alaska to Newfoundland, and south in the Rocky Mountains to Colorado, and to the Appalachian Mountains of New England.

lant Parts Used: The whole plant. The lichen may be gathered throughout the year; during the dry weather between May and September is best. It can be dried for later use by removing loose debris and drying it in direct sun or shade. Cetraria islandica is available as a dried whole plant, and as powdered herb extract.
I don’t have my own fotos, because when I visited Iceland digital cameras were not yet there. I have some slides, but it take quite some time till I have digitalized all slides.
But dishes of Icelan moss (soup, dessert etc.) are very tasty, and the moss has a flavour like cardamom.
Here http://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/iceland-moss.html    
you can find more Information and one Pic.

I have seen people selling Lichens at very high rates in Delhi market as spices, and these plants are being extracted on a very large scale from temperate regions in Himalaya (I am just talking about Indian Lichen market).
Just to add, lichens are one of the preferred food of Musk Deer in Himalayas.

lichens is also favorite food of reindeers. Behind polarcircle the feed only on lichens, especially in winter. The reindeers are undemanding anf find enough lichens under snow. I don’t know if all lichens are edible!

-one liken used in spices in Marathi called as “Dagadful”

-It is used in Masala. I don’t know if one makes dessert or soup from Dagadful. I think another ingrediant of masala is sarate, write? Are these things used nowadays in masala or has masala also become fast-masala?

-Many might not know that lichens come up only in a pollution free environment.  They are bio-indicators of  pollution free environment!.

-Raindeers does not exclusively feed on lichens. If there are more “juicy” alternatives they choose those, which means in summer all sorts of grass and herbs. In winter it is more difficult to find grass due to the snow. They try to dig into the snow as long as possible for species like Cladina rengiferina, C. arbuscula and C. stellaris but
switch to epiphytic lichens when the snow cover is too deep. Alectoria, Bryoria and Usnea are the thread like genera that can be seen hanging in old growth conifer forests. The modern forestry is a problem as lichens not will grow as fast as the trees. Therefore the indigenous Sami-people that heard raindeers nowadays feed their
animals with regular hay during parts of the winter.

There is at least one poisonous species of lichen: Lethraria vulpina. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letharia_vulpina
My personal experience of eating lichens is not soo good. I once tried to make bread by using Cetraria islandica carefully following a recipe, but it became very dry and bitter. For using the edible species it is a matter of removing the bitter substances to improve the taste but I can understand that in times of famine the use in bread was appreaciated.
I have never heard of lichens used as spices in the nordic countires.

-My last trip to Iceland was in 199?.  We ate a dessert made of Fjallagr s, some local people told me that I could collect Fjallagr s, but I preffered to buy it and made dessert with milk and suger back home. In the summer of
1996 we travelled thru Lapland. There we ate soup of Lichens (according to the menu card).  I collected some lichens there, but for decoration, not for eating. -I have not drunk soup of Lichen, nor heard too. Could not get sarate?????
Masala if traditionaly prepared yes all ingredients are used. There are some ladies who do this as buissiness, selling the day to day requirements like pickels, masalas, different flours, papad etc. If they are making traditional ype we get all the ingradients. else fast masalas Oldtimers like me know that we can prepare it at home else the art is vanishing.

-not every lichen is edible. But island moss  yes. Experts perhaps can tell which lichens are edible?
a recipe in german with iceland moss.
The following translation is from google-translate.
####### start ######
This unusual dessert gets its flavor through Fjallagras, the weak bitter
sweetness of caramelized sugar.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
50 g of dried Fjallagras (Iceland moss)
1 L milk
125 g sugar
1 pinch salt

Soak the dried Fjallagras several hours in water. Then press and cut into small pieces. Heat the milk to just below the boiling point. caramelize the sugar in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly so the sugar melts and caramelizes evenly . Also make sure that the sugar does not burn. If the sugar is caramelized, you give the grass and the hot milk and with a pinch of salt. Mix well, let cool and refrigerate.

-Now where to get Fjallagras?
But we get something called china grass. It is the extract of some brown alga. We can do some pudding of it

Lichens: This is a portion of information about lichens as food. The attached pic was taken in a local market selling masalaingredients.
Lichens for food: There are records of lichens being used as food by many different human cultures across the world.Lichens are eaten by people in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, and perhaps elsewhere. Often
lichens are merely famine foods eaten in times of dire needs, but in some cultures lichens are a staple food or even a delicacy. Two problems often encountered with eating lichens are that they usually contain mildly toxic
secondary compounds, and that lichen polysaccharides are generally indigestible to humans. Many human cultures have discovered preparation techniques to overcome these problems. Lichens are often thoroughly washed, boiled, or soaked in ash water to help remove secondary compounds.
In the past *Cetraria islandica* (Iceland moss) was an important human food in northern Europe and Scandinavia, and was cooked in many different ways, such as bread, porridge, pudding, soup, or salad. *Bryoria fremonii* was an important food in parts of North America, where it was usually pit cooked. *Cladina rangiferina*, or reindeer lichen , is a staple food of reindeer and caribou in the arctic. These lichens provide an important component of the ground cover grazed by animals and are also used by Laplanders to make hay for their animals. Northern peoples in North America and Siberia traditionally eat the partially digested lichen after they remove it from the rumen of
caribou that have been killed. It is often called *’stomach icecream’*. In India, and other centers of curry powder production, *garam masala sauce*contains certain lichens used as bulking agents.
Many invertebrates (insects, mites and sluges) also use lichens as food. They may alsobe eaten by a number of large hoofed mammals.

-Few excerpts

“Many female herb collectors informed that Kai (Lichen) can be used in dry from in treatment of Diarrhoea particularly in case of Diarrhoea in small children. This is considered as simple as well as useful treatment. I have
mentioned in previous articles that in many parts of Chhattisgarh, Kai is used externally as aphrodisiac.”
*”SOME FORGOTTEN TRADITIONAL FORMULATIONS OF CHHATTISGARH, INDIA. 446. Undkosh Ke Sujan Ke Dawa. (The remedy for swelling in scrotum).*
MAJOR INGREDIENTS: Chandan (Santalum album) wood powder and Kai (Lichen).
METHOD OF USE: Both ingredients are mixed and an aqueous paste is applied externally on affected part.
REMARKS: The use is continued till complete cure. ”
“In order to get more unique and secret formula, I have disclosed the use of Mucuna roots and Trombidium mite for this purpose. After long discussion, I have noted some formula and after coming back, I searched the reference literature but not got the references. According to this herb collector, during rainy season a special type of Kai (Lichen) appear on the rocks, which smell like rotten egg, is very useful in increasing the sexual desire. “
Source: http://www.botanical.com/site/column_poudhia/30_one_night.html

-Two small corrections from a Nordic angle of view:

1) -“In the past Cetraria islandica (Iceland moss) was an important human food in northern Europe and Scandinavia, and was cooked in many different ways, such as bread, porridge, pudding, soup, or salad” By “the past” I am sure you mean at least 1600-century or earlier. Lichens cannot have been an important everyday food item. If so the tradition to use the lichens would still be alive at least at certain periods of the year like christmas or easter. However I am sure that people living “out in the bush” occasionally used the extra tummy filling ingredient in times of famine. I would definitively prefer to feed my raindeer and then eat the animal than eat the lichens……… Another famine food was the pine bark(Pinus sylvestris), that finely grounded was mixed into the fluor when making bread.
2) -“Cladina rangiferina, or reindeer lichen , is a staple food of reindeer and caribou in the arctic. These lichens provide an important component of the ground cover grazed by animals and are also used by Laplanders to make hay for their animals.” NO it is not collected to be used as “hay”. Definitively not to the same extent as peolpe generally think when talking about hay. Of course a sack filled with lichens kept the “härk” happy (the raindeer
used as the hard working guy in absense of horses or cows that would freeze to death quite fast). The laplanders, sami-people or other raindeer hearding groups did of course make ordinary hay if it was possible due to their lifestyle(not by drying grasses but of the many sedges Carex spp. growing in the arctic & subarctic)  If you are
constantly moving it is not practically to carry extra loads around.