Shuswap knowledge of plants continues to be extensive. Over 135 species are known to have been utilized in one form or another. At least 48 species were recorded as being used for food, 53 species for medicinal purposes, 37 species for technological uses and 22 species for ceremonial use. Plant foods were a major part of the Secwepemc people's diet and were eaten fresh or cooked. They were preserved by baking and drying for later use. Elders taught the children how and when to gather, harvest, prepare, and store the plants used for food.
Listed below are a few of the plants used as food by the Secwepemc:
Black tree lichen (Bryoria fremontii)
Also known as (aka): wile, black tree moss and edible lichen.
Virtually every native group in the British Columbia Interior used this lichen as a food. Black tree lichen can be gathered at any time of the year and was used as a staple or an emergency ration. The Secwepemc preferred the lichen found on either ponderosa pine or lodgepole pine trees. The black tree moss would be washed thoroughly, pitcooked, and then dried into cakes for storage. The Shuswap would sometimes boil the cakes with berries, roots, or meat before eating them.
Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum)
Aka: secwsecwsqeqxe7ten, swamp tea, Hudson's Bay tea, muskeg tea, and Indian tea.
The Secwepemc picked the leaves from the Labrador tea shrub and dried the leaves for later use. The tea has a pleasant aroma, taste, and can be consumed with or without sugar. The leaves could also be added to regular or mint tea.
Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta)
Aka: t7iqwelqen, Jackpine, Black pine, Shrub pine, Tree Cambium
The sweet cambium and inner bark tissues were an almost universal food of the Interior First Peoples of British Columbia. The cambium was at its prime for harvesting for a short time in the spring, depending on elevation and local climatic conditions. If harvested too early, before the sap started to run, the cambium would be thin and dry. In late May or June, about the time when new needles are growing and the pollen cones are ripe, the cambium is thick and juicy. The bark is removed and the cambium is scraped from the wood. It can be eaten fresh or dried for later use.