MAL­LOW

Cosmos - - Gallery - CREDIT: MI­CRO DIS­COV­ERY / GETTY IMAGES

The mal­low fam­ily of flow­er­ing plants lends its name to more than a thou­sand species across the globe, in­clud­ing the hibis­cus. But it’s not just aes­thet­ics that en­dears this bit of green­ery to hu­man­ity. Some of them grow in wet, marshy places; the dried roots of these ‘marsh mal­lows’ were whipped into delectabil­ity by 19th cen­tury French con­fec­tion­ers with sugar, wa­ter and egg whites. Noth­ing if not ver­sa­tile, the leaves and shoots of the mal­low have been eaten since at least the 8th cen­tury BCE. Pliny the El­der (23-79) called it “the food of the poor”, while Ho­race (65-27 BCE) lauded it as a lax­a­tive and Hip­pocrates (c. 450-380 BCE) as a wound poul­tice.

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