Marsh Mallow

marshmallowthumb.JPGJuly 2008 - I went for a stroll down by the Hamble estuary at Manor Farm Country Park and discovered a big patch of Marsh Mallow.

What is Marsh Mallow?

Althaea officinalis - a flowering plant found - as the name suggests - in damp, marshy places such as river banks and damp woodland.


marshmallow2.JPGIt's quite an attractive plant - growing in large dense patches up to four feet tall, with large, downy, light green wavy leaves and pretty, cup-shaped pale pink flowers.

The plant - like many other members of the mallow family - is mucilaginous - which is just a fancy way of saying slimy

A thick, gummy, gelatinous substance - mucilage - can be extracted from it, and this is reputed to have medicinal properties including the suppression of coughs.

As the name suggests, the mucilage extracted from this plant was historically used in the manufacture of Marshmallows.


Marshmallows Grow On A Plant?

Isn't it interesting? - Marshmallow (the confection) is so familiar, yet the origin of the name is quite obscure - to the extent that a mention of Marsh Mallow (the plant) often raises eyebrows or is met with laughter.

But Marshmallows Really Were Made From Marsh Mallow

Modern Marshmallows are made from gelatin, egg white and sugar, but in traditional recipes, an extract of Marsh Mallow root was used instead of the gelatin.

I Couldn't Do It

I'd love to be able to show you the experimental amateur manufacture of traditional-recipe marshmallows, but I didn't have permission to dig up any of these Marsh Mallow plants for their roots, so that's out of the question, for now.

I will return later in the year and try to collect a few seeds - there are a couple of really damp patches in my garden, so I might be able to cultivate the plant next year...

marshmallow4.JPGI did, however, treat myself to a few petals - one of my wild food books describes these as 'coolly jellified'

I found them to be crisp, but fairly nondescript in flavour - they'd certainly brighten up a summer salad, without actually making much difference to the taste of it.