Common Mallow (Malva neglecta) is one of those plants that gardeners will look at and say “What a pretty weed” just before they yank it out of their flower garden. Well you know, I do understand that. Hours are spent forming a flower garden to look just the way you want it, and even though it can be a fairly attractive plant, you didn’t spend dollars on it so therefore it is an invader. So, out it goes. That’s OK, I get it. But do yourself a favor; rather than tossing it out, harvest it instead.
Mallow is a wonderful edible and medicinal plant. The fresh young greens are very good fresh added to a salad. They are extremely nutritional as are all wild edible green leafy plants. High in polysaccharides and antioxidant compounds including phenol’s, flavonoids, carotenoids, tocopherols and ALA fatty acids, combined with high levels of minerals, vitamins and micro nutrients, Mallow is a health promoting super plant.
Due to it’s high levels of mucilage, Mallow is particularly effective in treating ailments such as sore throat, congestion or upset stomach. Anything that you may suffer from, that has to do with the path your food takes, can be soothed and coated with a protective layer. Make an infusion from the leaves and or flowers and enjoy with a touch of honey.
My grandchildren particularly enjoy Mallow “tea” with a touch of honey when suffering from a sore throat. It can be swallowed even when water is tough to swallow. The mallow slides right down, coating the throat as it goes. A word of caution though, mallow is also an effective “mild” laxative. So unless you have access to a bathroom, don’t over do it. On the other hand, if you are constipated, a Mallow “tea” might just be what you need.
A Common Mallow infusion cooled can also be effective in treating burns and other skin ailments. Use on a burn much in the way you would Aloe. Use on inflamed joints and muscles to reduce swelling and ease the pain.
As a survival plant, it is possible to find Mallow very early and quite late in the season. It can take some pretty cold weather. I have found it under the snow. Mallow is an import from Europe brought to America by settlers. Unfortunately it is not always available deep in nature. Usually it is found around cultivated areas, the sides of houses, worked up garden areas, lawns and even sidewalk cracks. But, that isn’t to say you won’t find it in the middle of a forest meadow, just not as likely. As an Urban survival plant, it is a great one to know.
There are no parts of the Mallow plant that is poisonous, however, due to it’s laxative and other properties, don’t over do it. Especially until you know how your body reacts to it.
Common Mallow is a relative of Marsh Mallow. The very plant first used by the French to make “Marshmallows” and is the name sake of the popular confection. Of course, now, Marshmallows are made from modern ingredients.
Mallow is in the same family (mulvaceae) as is Okra and has the same thickening properties. It can be used as a substitute when making gumbos. It is also related to garden plants such as Holy Hocks.
As always, know exactly what plant you have before using it internally or externally. You are always responsible for further study and 100% identification.
The bottom line is, before you pitch that Mallow, use it. It is likely one of the most nutritious and medicinally useful plants you have on your property and that includes your vegetable garden.