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Should I Spray This Mallow? Or Eat it?

Updated on July 26, 2011
WannaB Writer profile image

Barb's hobbies are photography and studying nature. She gardens and takes photo walks to explore nature and capture it on camera.

Common Mallow: Weed or Useful Plant?

Common Mallow (Malva parviflora)
Common Mallow (Malva parviflora) | Source

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.

I hung this note on this mallow plant close to the house, and another  similar sign over  a nearby clump, so that John would notice it when he comes next time and I can't talk to him before he sprays. I will have to check the notes every day.
I hung this note on this mallow plant close to the house, and another similar sign over a nearby clump, so that John would notice it when he comes next time and I can't talk to him before he sprays. I will have to check the notes every day. | Source

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?

See results

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.


Comments

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  • profile image

    Sunnie Day 

    7 years ago

    This was really a great hub. I love the thought of growing edible foods all around the outside of the house. I have never seen Mallow here but would love to know if it would grow in central Texas. Thank you for sharing.

    Sunnie

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 

    7 years ago from the short journey

    Thank you so much for filling us in on mallow. I am looking forward to finding this and using it now. Very much looking forward to reading more about how you use it.

  • WannaB Writer profile imageAUTHOR

    Barbara Radisavljevic 

    7 years ago from Templeton, CA

    I could probably experiment more freely if I were single, but I'm not sure I want to trade my husband in on the opportunity to taste a few more weeds.

  • The Dirt Farmer profile image

    Jill Spencer 

    7 years ago from United States

    What a delightful hub! Loved the "salad experiment" story. It really made me laugh.

  • WannaB Writer profile imageAUTHOR

    Barbara Radisavljevic 

    7 years ago from Templeton, CA

    Aethelthryth, if you haven't done it yet, be sure to click the pictures to enlarge them so you can see the leaves better. My plants are budding and a few are getting small pink flowers.They just aren't big enough to photograph yet, but should be by next week. I will post them as soon as possible

  • profile image

    aethelthryth 

    7 years ago

    I think maybe that is the plant I spend late summer trying to get rid of. I will check and see. It is nice to know there is something else to do with it.

  • WannaB Writer profile imageAUTHOR

    Barbara Radisavljevic 

    7 years ago from Templeton, CA

    Pamela, Some people,like John, who does most of our weed abatement would say you are fortunate. It's most likely to be found in vacant lots and waste areas. It's generally found near civilization. We have it all over our orchard and around the house.

  • Pamela N Red profile image

    Pamela N Red 

    7 years ago from Oklahoma

    I don't believe we have any around here, at least it doesn't look familiar.

  • WannaB Writer profile imageAUTHOR

    Barbara Radisavljevic 

    7 years ago from Templeton, CA

    Hyphenbird, I have a bit more getting purslane into him. I guess it just looks weedier.

  • WannaB Writer profile imageAUTHOR

    Barbara Radisavljevic 

    7 years ago from Templeton, CA

    I like to try them. I just didn't learn until last year that mallow was edible.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 

    7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Thnaks for this information. I, like Bob, am always looking for free and natural foods. In the near future I believe they will come in handy as food becomes more expensive and hard to get. I am picturing the look on your husband's face, suspicious and kinda like "What did I eat?" lol

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 

    7 years ago from New Brunswick

    I like finding new plants to eat.

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