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.