Common Blue Mallow : Malva sylvestris Tea
14 x 11 inches, mixed media paper, watercolor and gouache
Depending on the Mallow plants environment it can be an annual, biennial or perennial, with the ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions. I think the plant passes it’s strength onto those who eat it for medicine or food, we get to absorb some of the chemicals that make this herb able to withstand extreme environments. Much like the Stinging Nettle, the Common Mallow is one of the first plants up in the spring and one of the last plants to wilt from hard frost, unlike the Stinging Nettle, which can’t handle frost.
The Wild Mallow plant is so hardy it can take root in just about any abandon area from sandy soil to hard clay. It has a long taproot, which aggressively seeks out nutrients and water. The Mallow or Malva comes from a very large family of plants called Malvaceae, a few plants are familiar to me like okra, hibiscus and cotton.
From stem to seed, all the parts of the mallow are edible, including their green leaves, which act as an anti-inflammatory agent, a mild laxative, soothes raw throats and helps clear congestion from the lungs and sinuses.
From the Romans like Pliny the mallow was used as a juice taken daily to prevent almost all illnesses known in their time. Many people in Europe throughout its long history have used mallow for food and medicine, the herb was known to sooth what ails you. In China Mallow was cultivated as a vegetable as far back as pre-Han dynasty.
The Blue Mallow is related to the Althaea Officinalis species that is cultivated for its root, which has mucilaginous substances and used by common folk to relieve sore throats, coughing, and asthmatic symptoms.
Long ago the Egyptians figured out how to extract the mucilage and transform it into our first marshmallows. The extracted mucilage substance was cooked and whipped with sugar, which was allowed to dry into a white, chewy, sweet candy.
Foraging for mallow you only need a few leaves to make a large meal for salad or steamed greens. If you gather more leaves than you need you can store them in a plastic bag in your refrigerator where they will last as long as a bunch of collard leaves. That is how hardy they are!
You can use the leaves in your favorite green smoothy recipe, they have a mild astringent taste, the wild common mallow has a bit of a bitter after taste compared to its relatives that we see in our gardens.
You can pick the flowers and let them dry, especially the blue mallow flowers, which hold onto their color and pass on their beautiful blue color to your tea.
Bring 16 oz of water to a boil, add 2 tablespoons of dried mallow flowers, let boil for two minutes and sieve out the flowers when serving. You can add anything you want to this tea, including other herbs and fruit, like mint and lemon balm with some honey.