Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis )

Marsh mallow is indeed the original source for the confection of the same name. Marshmallow candy dates back to ancient Egypt where it was a honey based candy flavored and thickened with the powdered root of the marsh mallow plant (althea officinalis).

Marsh mallow grows in salt marshes and on banks near large bodies of water. It was originally native to Europe but brought to the United States for medicinal purposes. It is common in the eastern United States. Until the mid 1800’s, marshmallow candy was made using the sap of the marsh mallow plant. Of course today’s spongy cubes share only sugar in common with the original recipe.Gelatin replaces the sap in the modern recipes.

Marsh mallow is shown here primarily for its historical culinary usage. However, several parts of the plant are pleasant and edible as well.

The seeds may be eaten alone or sprinkled like nuts on a salad. The flowers are edible and may be tossed on salads as well. The leaves may be eaten in salads or steamed and eaten as a vegetable. Roots may be boiled to soften and then can be fried.

 

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