Should I Spray This Mallow? Or Eat it?
Common Mallow: Weed or Useful Plant?
Until Recently, I Considered the Common Mallow My Enemy
I have now learned that the common mallow that you see in this picture is a friend. It's also a free source of food. Unlike the spinach I've tried to grow unsuccessfully, mallow, which can be substituted for spinach in many recipes, thrives in my yard. It's also a plant that the gophers and ground squirrels allow to survive. Its only real enemy here has been man. Our weed abatement man, who makes his living as a farmer, hates the mallow plant. He sees it as invasive, and it is. It puts down deep roots and when tall can be almost impossible to pull out, especially if the ground has dried. In this hub I will try to convince you that this plant has a bad reputation only because we haven't learned to properly appreciate it.
John, Please Spare this Mallow.
What's the Nutritional Value of Mallow?
According to the USDA, 1/2 cup (or 100 grams) of mallow leaves contains 249 milligrams of calcium, 69 milligrams of phosphorus, 2,190 international units of vitamin A, and 35 milligrams of vitamin C. That's all well and good, you might think, but what does it taste like?
Today I decided to find out. Christopher Nyerges, author of Guide to Wild and Useful Plants, states that no mallow species is poison, and that this particular variety of mallow is edible raw and has a slightly mucilaginous texture. It's leaves can also be cooked and used as you would spinach.
Knowing that I could not make a fatal mistake, I got brave, picked a tender young leaf, and took it in to wash it well. Then I put it in my mouth and chewed it up. To tell you the truth, it didn't have a lot of taste. It was very mild, and did not have as much taste to notice as a spinach leaf. There was no bitterness or sourness. I decided to pick more and put it in our salad tonight. I tore it into bite-sized pieces so it would not be recognizable, mixed it with Romaine lettuce, some bagged spinach I had bought already, some cucumber, small grape tomatoes, sliced avocado, and some kidney beans for good measure. When my husband came home, I added some Feta cheese and Italian dressing. Then I put it in front of him.
After he had finished eating without making any negative comments, I asked him how he had liked his salad. I suppose that aroused his suspicions, since I had mentioned yesterday that the mallow was edible. He said the salad had been fine. No complaints! I decided that raw, at least, mallow is neutral, it adds nutrition and texture, but had no distracting taste of its own. Like tofu, it appears to take on the flavor of what surrounds it.
As you can see, I now want to protect a bit of this free food source from my weed abatement man. He often comes when I least expect him and before I'm up and dressed in the morning. He comes with his tank of Round-up and starts spraying anything he perceives as a weed unless I make sure he knows it's out of bounds. That is why I did what you see in the picture above.
This video will tell you even more about the uses of mallow.
What will you do with your mallow this year?
If you also have mallow in your yard, what will you do with it now that you know its uses?
So How Much Mallow Do I Need?
It is my plan to pick a lot of mallow leaves from the orchard now, while the plants really look good and, I hope, before John gets to them. I will dry them and grind them as suggested in the video above to use as a nutritious thickener for soups and stews. I may also freeze some to use in cooked recipes where I might otherwise use spinach or chard, such as my Cheese and Chard Squares. After I have a chance to try that, I'll let you know how it tastes.
Yesterday I made an infusion of the leaves to see if it has the effect it's supposed to have on coughs, since I have just the kind of dry cough it's supposed to help. The resulting tea (made with boiling water poured over four torn up leaves had a mild spinach flavor, and it was very soothing. I also tried chewing the leaves for my sore throat. It did as much good as gargling with salt water would have. After the flowers finish blooming, I'll try taking the fruits will me on walks, since chewing them might keep my mouth from getting dry. I'll let you know the results when I've actually had a chance to try that.
I have a large orchard and garden area that is filling rapidly with mallow. I know I'm growing more than we will be able to use in a year. Some of it will have to go before it's impossible to get rid of. You saw those roots in the video! They get even longer when the plants get as high as I am, as they did last year in my garden. I plan to keep the plants closest to my kitchen, so that they will be easy to get to when I need raw leaves. What I can pull of the other plants will go to add minerals to my mulch pile. I suppose John will get the rest. They aren't as pretty when they get old, and we do have to get rid of weeds before fire season. Meanwhile, I will enjoy the flowers when they come and try the fruits. I will also post their pictures here as soon as I can.