Woodland lichen is the latest delicacy growing on chefs and is being served deep-fried to fine diners.
The humble plant, which is most often spotted growing on rocks in damp areas, has had something of a makeover and has even been described as ‘the new kale’.
The once unglamorous greenery has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly on menus at Michelin-star restaurants across the country.
Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Berkshire can be seen starring on the menu, a dish of ‘jelly of quail, crayfish cream, chicken liver parfait, oak moss [an edible lichen] and truffle toast.’
Despite its incredibly bitter taste, chefs are using moss to flavour everything from salmon to vodka.
Chef Simon Rogan even serves moss deep-fried as a bar snack while diners wait for their tables at L’Enclume restuarant in the Lake District.
Meanwhile Rene Redzepi’s famous Noma restaurant in Copenhagan currently serves moss in a dish with cep mushrooms. The growing trend is thought to have its roots in Scandinavian cuisine, where many key ingredients are foraged from local woodland.
Jeff Kipp, the head chef of Saltwood on the Green in Kent, said that moss is ideal for holding the moisture of fish and perfuming it with a hint of nature. ‘As the fish is almost done and the moss, with a rosemary tine, begins to dry out, the aromas definitely move from hay and pine towards the floral.’ He added that he regularly sources his own moss from his local wood – and that it is ideal for barbecuing oily fish.
While most mosses and lichens are edible, the majority are quite unpalatable when raw. Instead, it is recommended they are first boiled in milk to remove some of the bitterness. They can then be used to infuse meat and fish with a woody, aromatic taste.