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Foraged Mallow is available in the winter and early spring.
Mallow, botanically known as Malva parviflora is also known as Little Mallow, Egyptian Mallow and Cheeseweed. The herb Mallow is classified as a broadleaf plant and a member of the Malvaceae family along with cotton, okra and hibiscus. Its nickname, Cheeseweed comes from the seed containing fruit of the Mallow plant which resembles a petite wheel of cheese segmented into wedges. While Mallow has long been a popular herb in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean in America Mallow is known predominantly as an invasive plant, though it is becoming increasingly sought after by foragers for its culinary attributes.
Mallow produces heart shaped or lobed leaves on long slender stems. The Mallow herb also produces flowers nearly year-round, which are edible, and range from white to light pink and lavender. The whole plant is edible including the stems, seeds and roots. The leaves of Mallow offer a mild green flavor similar to Green chard.
Mallow can be used as a substitute where greens are called for in cooked and raw preparations. Fresh leaves can be added to salads or incorporated into wraps and salad rolls. Naturally mucilaginous, the leaves of Mallow can be used as a thickener in soups, stews and curries. They can be chopped and added to rice, omelets and veggie burgers or utilized as a stewing green. In Greece and Turkey the leaves are oftentimes used as a substitute for grape leaves when making dolmas. In Morocco the leaves are cooked down with other greens to make an herb jam for bread. To tame the fuzzy texture of Mallow leaves blanch prior to using.
The family name, Mallow comes from the Greek word, malassein which means “to soften”, a nod to the soft, hairy leaves and stems as well as to the mucilaginous properties of many of the plants in this family. In Mexico the leaves are commonly used when making sauces. In the Middle East Mallow is the base of a common soup known as molukhia or mulukhiy, also known as mallow soup/stew. Mallow is mentioned in religious texts as well, in the Bible it is referred to as chalamut and chalamit. In Islamic culture it is known as khubeza which is the word for bread in Arabic, a name given to reflect the long time importance of Mallow as a food staple in the culture.
Native to Eurasia the foraging of Mallow for use as a food source dates back to ancient times. Mallow is documented to have been used since 6000 BC. It has long been a food source in the Middle East and today is still popularly used for culinary purposes in Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Israel and Syria. Mallow was introduced to the United States via Europe in the 1800's though it has failed to yet take off in the culinary scene and is thought of mostly as an agricultural weed. In the United States it can commonly be found growing in vineyards, gardens, farms, lawns, mountains, orchards, along roadsides and in other disturbed plots of land. Growing as an annual, biannual or short lived perennial Mallow reproduces by seed and can thrive in most conditions given that it has moist soil. When it grows in nitrogen rich soil it runs the risk of absorbing excess nitrates that can reach levels that are toxic to cattle, horses, sheep and poultry, as a result care should be taken when growing Mallow around farm animals.
Recipes that include Foraged Mallow. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Tasty Craze||Mallow Tea|