Iceland moss is our most common lichen. It is easily distinguished from other lichen species and grows upright and strong in dry forests, ridges, cliffs, dryish soils, and fells. In places you can also see small bush-like clumps, though it is attached only very loosely to its base. It is easily recognisable due to its fringed edges. The upper surface is usually dark brown and the lower part is light gray while there are often reds at the base.
During years of hunger, it has been used as a source of nutrition for animals and humans. It tastes bitter and as with other native species it contains plenty of lichen acids that must be extracted before using eating. The lichen must be soaked in water that contains ash and then the mixture is boiled and the resulting mass is dried and made into a flour that can be used with other flours in baking, in porridge, casseroles and so on.
It is very nutritious. It includes, for example, protein, fat, carbohydrates and fibre. It has energy of 180 kj and vitamin C 750 mg / 100 g. Due to its high sugar content, it has been used as a raw material for maing alcohol, a practice so common that the crown had to intervene in a powerful way. During the Second World War, it made glucose syrup for the Soviet Union, which was a raw material for many alcohol factories and was used to keep armored vehicles and soldiers going under harsh conditions. There are many more minerals in it than in normal cereal flours, however, it should be recalled that lichen binds heavy metals, so its regular use must be avoided in Southern Finland. Iceland moss also has antibiotic-active compounds, which are also being researched by modern medicine. It is used in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases, sore throats, coughs and loss of appetite.