Reindeer Moss – Food and other uses…

Reindeer Moss (Cladonia rangiferina) is a prime source of food for Reindeer, Caribou and Moose and grows commonly in alpine tundra areas such as Canada and Scandanavia. The Reindeer Moss thrives where other plants and food sources cannot survive. The Reindeer and Caribou seek it out by its fragrant scent, then paw the snow until the Reindeer Moss is revealed. It has been noted that in these desolate areas, only the Reindeer or the Reindeer Moss can survive. Not both. Cladonia rangiferina is actually a lichen, not a moss and for this reason the growth rate is very slow. It only achieves a rate of 3-5 mm per annum and the source can take years to replenish.
Reindeer Moss is found in certain areas in Scotland and Wales. It grows commonly on the moors and heaths, mainly attaching to soil nestling in rocky outcrops.
Reindeer Moss is also a useful food source for people. Original Outdoors supply the lichen to chefs in the UK and abroad in our partnership with Rhug Estates as Rhug Foraging. It has been and is still used as a survival food. But it is imperative to realise that firstly, the identification of the correct lichen is very important. Some lichens and mosses are poisonous. Secondly, even this lichen must be leached of the acidic toxins it contains before consumption.
Reindeer Moss like most lichens, is 94% carbohydrate and 6% acid. This acid can cause severe stomach cramps if consumed in any quantity. It is important to remove as much of the acid as possible before eating. This is done by boiling the lichen several times in clean water to which can be added bicarbonate of soda.

Reindeer Moss Facts

  • Although known as a moss, it is in fact a fruticose lichenReindeer
  • Reindeer Moss has a fragrant scent
  • Reindeer Moss has a taste reminiscent of mushrooms.
  • Reindeer Moss, like most lichens are 94% carbohydrate, but 6% acid. This acid can cause severe stomach cramps if consumed in any quantity. It is important to remove as much of the acid as possible before eating. This is done by boiling the lichen several times in clean water to which can be added bicarbonate of soda
  • Reindeer Moss is used as a thickener in soups and stews and can be used to make breads and puddings. Scones are also made from it.
  • Reindeer Moss acts like a sponge,collecting and retaining water. These qualities have made it ideal to be used as a poultice on wounds and as nappies for babies.

Common Food Uses.

    • Reindeer Moss is used in scones
    • Dried Reindeer Moss is soaked and boiled, then mixed with berries.
    • Reindeer Moss is used as a thickener in soups and stews
    • Reindeer Moss is used to make breads and puddings
    • Reindeer Moss is used in scones
    • Reindeer Moss is high in carbohydrates and also contains Vitamin A and B
    • Reindeer Moss is boiled with fruit to make a jelly
    • Reindeer Moss is dried and used as a flour extender or substitute
    • Reindeer Moss is simmered with wild game or fish
    • Reindeer Moss is made into puddings
    • Reindeer Moss is made into custards and sauces
    • Reindeer Moss is dried as a base for soups and stews.

How to prepare it

It is important to remember that the moss must be boiled several times in a mixture of clean water and bicarbonate of soda in order to remove the acid, which may cause stomach upset.
This can be prepared and used in the many forms listed above.
Fresh Reindeer Moss can be kept for several weeks before use. It retains water so well, that the lichen remains in a fresh state.
Dried Reindeer Moss can be kept indefinitely.

How to find out more

As with any foraging and wild food experimentation, it is the responsibility of the forager to ensure that they are gathering plants safely, ethically and sustainably. Please ensure that you are 100% certain about any plant species before eating it. This blog post has only briefly touched on the subject of edible mosses/lichens, and how to use them. We cover the subject in more depth on our Foraging and Wild Foods courses, along with the laws of foraging in the UK, how to safely identify the various species and how to use them.

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