I came across a comment from my editor telling me to remove information I had written regarding wild edible plants. Apparently google hadn’t matched my description. Believing my memory wasn’t faulty I hopped onto Google to search for myself. I found nothing, no photo or description to match what I remembered to be Old Man’s beard. The alternate names I searched yielded edible plants though not the dark green tree lichen I recalled boiling and eating.

Off I went to my ragged box of books I had hidden in our coffee table. Yes the coffee table is large enough to hide a rice cooker box, boxes of chocolates, and my various massage pillows for my tired sore muscles.

It’s been years since I last opened this box, each time I am pleasantly surprised to see the books I have that were my fathers. His passion for the wilderness, for the native Americans’ way of living off the land has shaped the woman I am.

Opening the pages I see the familiar handwriting of not only my father but my mothers’ as well.

My father’s name clearly penned and beneath that my mothers stamp of approval. It doesn’t surprise me but I do let out a laugh tinged with disbelief and sadness. Many of you may not realize what ‘checked: Oct 22/96 by mom’ means. Or why I wasn’t surprised at yet another ridiculous action.

Everything I or my siblings read were censored. Sentences in books and textbooks blacked out with alternate sentences written above was normal to us. Here I was seeing that years after my father passed mom checked everything previously deemed pious. Dad’s books, pamphlets, and research would have been burned in ’96. Maybe God got stricter in ’96, or more likely she was married to someone more controlling than the commune or my father.

Since I don’t much like delving too deep into my feelings lets get back to the tasty boiled ‘Old Man’s beard’ that Google doesn’t have appropriate information on. The books wax binding well past its prime, the pages lose and coming out when the pages are opened. I found what I was looking for in Plants In British Columbia Indian Technology by Nancy J. Turner on page 47 under the heading Lichen. Black tree lichen isn’t actually the one termed Old Man’s beard after all, it is in fact referring to the lighter green tree lichen.

In Food Plants of British Columbia Indians part 2/Interior Peoples by Nancy J Turner page 35 I hit the jackpot. An entire section devoted to black tree lichen. Complete with descriptions of where it grows (montane forests particular to Interior BC) to length it can get too ( 2-3 feet) as well as a comparison to steel wool. That was something I would never have thought but can understand.

The difference of opinion in different Peoples tribes as to the popularity of it as a good source I completely understand. I would love to try it from someone who could make it with the appetite of it tasting like candy. My personal comparison would be spinaches evil cousin. Completely understandable to me that some individuals felt it should only be eaten in case of emergency.

The book has a myriad of knowledge about why the different flavours including how and when to harvest depending on the area. It almost tempted me to try cooking it again. Then again we have a freezer full of delicious elk to eat this winter so maybe I’ll put steaming black tree lichen on the back burner for now.