The common mallow is part of the large family of Malvaceae plants that include cotton, okra and hibiscus. It is an edible plant that has been used for medicinal care as well as food. The fruits are round and have cheese-like wedges which give the common mallow its nickname, cheese plant. Mallow stems are flexible and come from a central point, often lounging on the ground. This wild edible is used as herbal medicine in a variety of ways. It is an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, demulcent, emollient, laxative and an expectorant.
Malva neglecta is an annual growing to 0.6 m (2ft). It is also known as common mallow in the United States and also buttonweed, cheeseplant, cheeseweed, dwarf mallow and roundleaf mallow. Although often considered a weed, this plant is often consumed as a food.This is especially true of the seeds, which contain 21% protein and 15.2% fat.The plant is an invasive species in the United States.
Other Names: button weed, cheese mallow, cheese weed, cheeses, dwarf mallow, garden mallow, low mallow, malice, round dock, round-leaved mallow, running mallow
Distinguishing Features: Common mallow is a winter or summer annual or biennial, freely branching at the base, with a prostrate growth habit. It is a low growing weed, with a deep fleshy tap root. The seeds germinate through the summer and broken stems can also root. This plant has stems that originate from a deep tap root and are low spreading with branches that reach from a few centimetres to almost 60 centimetres long.
Flowers: The flowers are borne either singly or in clusters in the leaf axils blooming from June to late autumn. They have 5 petals and are white, pinkish or lilac flowers that measure on average, 1 to 1.5 cm across.
Leaves: Common mallow leaves are alternate, on long petioles, circular to kidney-shaped, toothed and shallowly 5-9 lobed, 2-6 cm wide. Short hairs present on upper and lower leaf surfaces, margins and petioles.
Height: This plant can grow anywhere from 10 to 60 cm in length.
Habitat: The common mallow likes to grow in lawns, gardens, roadsides, waste areas and cropland. It originated in Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa and is also in the Americas and Australia.
Edible parts: All parts of this plant are edible. The leaves can be added to a salad, the fruit can be a substitute for capers and the flowers can be tossed into a salad. When cooked, the leaves create a mucus very similar to okra and can be used as a thickener to soups and stews. The flavour of the leaves is mild. Dried leaves can be used for tea. Mallow roots release a thick mucus when boiled in water. The thick liquid that is created can be beaten to make a meringue-like substitute for egg whites. Common mallow leaves are rich in vitamins A and C as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium.
Common mallow has many similar health uses as marshmallow (Althaea officinalis).
Common mallow is a popular herb to treat respiratory problems since it has healing properties that may help the mucosa of the upper respiratory tract. The herb contains a lot of mucous substances that cover the inflamed tissue with a protective layer.
A tea made from the leaves or flowers may be used as a remedy for cough, catarrh and hoarseness. The flowers and leaves should be allowed to soak for a few hours in lukewarm water before use. To preserve the medical properties of the plant, don’t use boiling water.
Today, the dried flowers and extracts are used in many commercial tea blends and over-the-counter medication intended as a relief for coughs.
Tea made from the herb is said to help nursing mothers to produce more milk.
Malva sylvestris has also its uses as a source of food. The seeds taste similar to young hazel nuts and they can easily be included in green salads along with the leaves and flowers. The use of common mallow in the kitchen is mostly forgotten but it definitely deserves to make a comeback.
Common Mallow and Lotus Root
Common Mallow(Sochal) is a wild vegetable found anywhere on the road sides, parks, playgrounds, grazing lands etc. It can also be grown in our kitchen gardens easily. Tastes fabulous after cooking.
75o g Common Mallow leaves (mallow leaves).
250 g nadir (lotus stem).
Salt to taste.
3 saboot sookhi laal mirchi (red dried whole chillies).
1.5 table spoon laal mirch powder (red chilly powder).
1/4 table spoon saunth powder (ginger powder).
1 medium size pyaaz (onion).
3-4 ladles of mustard oil.
1 pinch hing (asafoetida).
Clean Common Mallow, wash 3-4 hours before cooking to drain off the water, peel off the nadir, cut into round chips, wash and keep aside. Cut and wash onion.
Heat oil in a deep pan, fry nadir and keep in a bowl.
Fry onions till brown and turn the stove on low flame, put mirchi powder and stir till dark red colours appears.
Add salt, hing, ginger powder, stir and add Common Mallow leaves and stir gently so that oil and other contents mix with the leaves evenly.
As soon as sap of the leaves start coming out add fried nadir and saboot mirchi.
Cook on low flame with occasional stirring till the liquid dries up and oil appears.
Serve the vegetable with boiled rice.