Marshmallow - Althaea (Althaea officinalis) Mallow Flowering Herb Organic NonGMO Heirloom Herb
Height: 90 cm to 1.2m 3 to 4 ft
Althaea, also known as Marshmallow, Mallards, Mauls, Schloss Teai, Cheeses, Mortification Koot, Mallow, White mallow, Common Marsh-Mallow, Mortification root, Sweet weed, and Wymote, is a genus of herbaceous perennial plants native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia. Did you know... the original marshmallow candies were made from the root simmered with sugar, water and egg whites!
Marshmallow is also a valued medicinal, especially the root. It's slippery/mucilaginous quality makes it a powerful demulcent that eases sore throats and indigestion. The leaves are less potent, but are great in teas. In fact all parts of the plant are edible; the leaves are a good steamed green and the flowers can be added to top salads. They are found on the banks of rivers and in salt marshes, preferring moist, sandy soils.
This erect, very rarely-seen, British native wildflower will thrive in damp conditions and gives a lovely late summer display of multiple soft pink flowers, (which occasionally are pure white with pink anthers!) on tall softly hairy stems with attractive grey-green leaves. It is an herbaceous perennial and so will return for several years after dying back over winter.
Until the mid 1800s, Marsh Mallow acted as the thickening agent for the candy known as marshmallows. Confectioners would whip the juice of the root along with egg whites and sugar to make what was then a tasty medicine for children; the soothing, softening effect relieved sore throats and coughs. Other medicinal uses included poultices to reduce inflammation, a cream to soothe skin irritation, and a syrup to treat stomach ulcers or indigestion. The sweet, parsnip like root was eaten as a vegetable in ancient Rome as well as in Middle Eastern countries, being a source of food in famine. Marsh Mallow naturally grows in marshes or near sea coasts.
- Full sun to part shade
- Seeds can be sown at any time.
- Fall: sow the seed in late summer or early fall; the seed will remain dormant until spring. Sow onto a good soil-based compost. Cover the seeds with fine grit or compost to approximately their own depth.
- NOTE: if not planted in the fall, these seeds will need to be stratified- mix the seed with an equal amount of sand, and store it in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks to break their dormancy. Keep the soil evenly moist and at a temperature of 70 degrees F until sprouting.
- Germination: The germination rate may be naturally low. Typically 21 to 28 days.
- As soon as the seedlings can be safely handled and there is no chance of frost, transplant them outdoors.
- OR start seeds in an unheated greenhouse and wait for natural germination. Start the seeds indoors in a flat, just below the surface. Germination can sometimes be quicker if kept at 15 to 20 degrees C. Transplant outdoors after 2 sets of true leaves appear and after all risk of frost has passed.
- Spacing: 12 to 18 in apart
- Seed count: 10
Since this plant naturally grows in marshy ground, the plants will need to be watered well to keep the soil moist. It prefers moist to wet soil and full sun, though it also adapts to well-drained soil. Plants can also be propagated by division. A layer of mulch will help conserve moisture and control weeds. Established plants will self seed, but volunteer plants can easily be transplanted or removed. This plant attracts hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
The sweet, thick taproot of Marsh Mallow can be harvested in the autumn from plants of at least two years growth. If a few small roots are left on the plant, it will continue to grow. Eaten fresh as a vegetable, the roots have a taste similar to a parsnip. They can also be dried for later use. The leaves can be harvested individually and used fresh or dried for tea, poultices, or tinctures.
After the flowers fade, a seed pod will develop. When the pods begin to dry and the seeds inside ripen to a brown, remove the pods individually and spread them out to dry. Separate the seed from the pods and store the cleaned seed in a cool, dry place.