For comprehensive information (e.g. nutrition, health benefits, recipes, history, harvesting tips, etc.) please check out our Common Mallow PDF magazine.
The common mallow is in the Malvaceae family that include cotton, okra and hibiscus. The fruits are round and have cheese-like wedges which give the common mallow its nickname, the cheese plant. Common mallow is related to the marsh mallow plant which, as its name suggests, is where the first marshmallows came from. However, marshmallows were nothing as they are today. They were created as a medicinal treat for sore throats. Common mallow is an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, demulcent, emollient, laxative and an expectorant. Depending on location, the common mallow is a winter or summer annual or biennial.
Common mallow freely branches at the base, with a prostrate growth habit. It is a low growing weed, with a deep fleshy tap root. The leaves are easy to identify as they are scalloped shaped.
The flowers are borne either singly or in clusters in the leaf axils. They bloom from June to late autumn. They have 5 petals and are white, pinkish or lilac. On average, the flowers measure 1 to 1.5 cm (.39 to .59”) across.
Common mallow leaves are alternate, on long petioles, circular to kidney-shaped, toothed and shallowly lobed. They average 2 to 6 cm (.79 to 2.36”) wide. Short hairs are present on the upper and lower leaf surfaces, margins and petioles. Leaf venation is palmate, with several major veins radiating from the leaf base.
This plant can grow anywhere from 10 to 60 cm (3.93 to 23”) in length, not height.
The common mallow likes to grow in lawns, gardens, roadsides, waste areas and cropland. It originated in Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. It has naturalized in the Americas and Australia. It prefers sunny locations.
All parts of this plant are edible. The leaves can be added to a salad, the fruit can be a substitute for capers and the flowers can be tossed into a salad. When cooked, the leaves create a mucus texture very similar to okra and can be used to thicken soups and stews. Dried leaves can be used for tea. Mallow roots release a thick mucus when boiled in water. The thick liquid that is created can be beaten to make a meringue-like substitute for egg whites. Common mallow leaves are rich in vitamins A and C as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium.
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