Scientific Name: Malva neglecta
Common Names: Common Mallow, Buttonweed, Cheeseplant, Cheeseweed, Dwarf Mallow, Roundleaf Mallow
You’ve probably seen this weed before. Common mallow is a summer or winter annual that has been known to sprout a second year from a biennial root crown. It grows well in disturbed soil and you’ll likely find it growing along fences, barn walls, curbs, other obstructions, and in your garden or yard. Cotton, okra, hibiscus, and durian are all relatives of common mallow.
All parts of the mallow plant are edible. Flowers, leaves, fruit, seeds, stems, and roots.
The leaves can be harvested like spinach and are edible raw or cooked. They can also be added in added to salads, as they make an excellent lettuce substitute.They have a mild pleasant flavor, and are highly nutritious. You could try mallow leaves sauteed in butter with onions and garlic to use it on pizza or use it as a pasta sauce. Common mallow leaves are rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. They also contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and selenium. The leaves have a thickening effect, so when cooked in soups, they tend to thicken it.
A tea can be made from the dried leaves. The seeds have a nutty flavor and are edible raw or cooked.
Small fruits form in late summer that resemble tiny wheels of cheese. These are edible raw or cooked. They aren’t packed with flavor but have a similar flavor to okra.
The flowers are edible, but don’t have much of a flavor but could be added to a salad to add a little flair.
The healing properties of common mallow are derived from the mucilage and flavanoid gycosides found in the plants leaves and flowers. Common mallow also contains anti-oxidants, including polyphenols and anthocyanins, which explains its beneficial effect on gastroenteritis.
Roman scholar Pliny, 2,000 years ago, recommended drinking a sip of mallow juice daily to prevent illnesses.
It is used to help combat colds accompanied by a sore throat, a dry, hacking cough and bronchitis because of it’s ability to induce the removal of mucous secretions from the lungs. Its anti-irritant properties make it helpful as well for treating hoarseness and tonsillitis.
All parts of the plant are astringent, laxative, and help counteract inflammation, as well as soften and soothe the skin when applied locally.
Other than as a food, common mallow can be used to create yellow, green, or cream color dyes, and the root can be used as a toothbrush.Remember: Check with a qualified naturopathic doctor or other health professional before eating any wild plant.