The Little Healing Breads
Photo by Melody

The Little Healing Breads

By Adina Dosan (adinamiti)July 22, 2010
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Have you ever eaten a French hollyhock's fruit, those small round seeds called "cheeses?” I have, as a child while playing outside with my dolls. My grandma told us that those seeds were edible and that they were called ”little breads.” Since we had so many marsh mallows everywhere on our playground, the "little breads” were perfect for cooking lunch for our dolls, especially when we could eat it for them!

Gardening picture 

ImageI've always thought people of my age had a wonderful childhood, so carefree and beautiful! We knew how to listen to our parents, but mostly to our grandparents. Most children had a grandparent (or more than one) taking care of them in  those times. The French hollyhocks remind me of my grandparents, long gone now, but still so alive in my memories. They always had such good advice and knew so much about ancient treatments! I remember sitting and listening over and over to my grandpa telling me the same old stories about his childhood. My grandma was the harsh one, but she taught me about the medicinal herbs used for making tea and many other remedies for coughs, cold or angina. I don't remember her telling me what the "little breads" were good for, but I'm sure she knew, otherwise she wouldn't have told me they were edible. There were other berries or leaves we were also using for "food" for our dolls, but grandma told us they were poisonous, so we never ate any.

The marsh mallows dissapeared from the playground as I was growing up and I hadn't seen any until last year when we moved into a house near a field full of wild plants. Since I've discovered they are related to hibiscus and have learned so much about them, I didn't consider the marsh mallow a weed anymore, and I alllowed two of them to grow in my garden.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mallows are perennial plants from the Malvaceae family, same as Hibiscus and Alcea. They are quite a few species including marshmallow (Althaea officinalis, French hollyhock (Malva sylvestris), musk mallow (Malva moschata), dwarf mallow (Malva neglecta) and tree mallow (Lavatera arborea).

Mine are a Malva sylvestris variety, known as the common mallow and French hollyhock. They came from nowhere in my garden, probably from the field nearby, and started to grow near the fence in the shadows. But they grew taller and bushier as they came out in the sun. Now they have lots of blooms and also "cheeses" or "little breads," as their seeds are called here in our country.

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Blue Mallow (Malva sylvestris) has different flowers, a bit darker, almost mauve, with dark veins, blooming in June. Its healing properties aren't as strong as of the marsh mallow's. Still, the leaves and flowers are still used for healing cough and cold.[1]

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The marsh mallow (Altheea officinalis) is native to Europe where it is growing mostly as a weed on the field, in salt marshes, damp meadows or by the side of the ditches. The plant is blooming in August and its cute pale pink flowers, similar to those of the hibiscus and hollyhock are what makes it so lovely and wanted now in many gardens, especially in the U.S., where it was brought as a medicinal herb.[2]  The foliage is similar to the hollyhock's, but the leaves are roundish and hairy, entire or three to five lobed and thinner than the hollyhock's.

Althaea officinalis' name is derived from the Greek, altho (to cure) showing its healing properties. The mallows have been used for their healing properties and for cooking since ancient times. They are also known as "cheeses" because their little round edible seeds look like small, round pieces of cheese. Their roots, leaves and flowers are also edible and contain starch, mucilage, pectin, oil, sugar, phosphate of lime, cellulose, asparagin and tannis. [1] That makes them perfect remedy for soothing and healing, treating harsh coughs and stomach ulcers. Most common medicinal uses of the Marsh Mallows are in bladder infections, cystitis, diabetes; any burns, including sunburn; nausea, sorethroat, laryngitis. [3]

The popular marshmallow sweets were first made from the marsh mallow's root extract, thanks to the mucilage, pectin and sugar contained, but also to the white color of the root. This is where another name of the plant was derived, the white mallow root.[4] In fact, this is how the mallows were first used for medicinal purposes.  In ancient Egypt it was discovered they had soothing properties for sore throats. They were mixing the sap of the plant with nuts and honey and made candies out of this mixture.[5]

Musk mallow (Malva moschata) grows bigger than the other species, with pink flowers which are blooming in June. Its leaves have a musky odor and are edible, same as the roots.[1]

Dwarf mallow (Malva neglecta)has smaller, pale lilac flowers with heart-shaped leaves, which have sometimes been used on medicinal purposes. It is self-fertilizing, while the other kinds are fertilized by insects.[1]

Tree mallow (Lavaterum arborea) grows taller, looking like a tree, with velvety leaves which are used as a decoct for healing injured spots.[1]

Lavatera thuringiaca (also called Althaea ambigua) is native to Europe and grows in Romania, too. [7],[8]

This is one I found on the field near my house.

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After learning about the mallows' healing properties, I can tell why my grandma encouraged me to eat those "little breads." I always had chronic sore throats, so she found a fun way to deal with it. Even now I can't eat or drink anything coming out of the fridge and don't ask how long it takes me to eat an ice-cream! But now I have a remedy in my own garden and I am going to try it. You can ask me later if it worked for me or not.

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[1] - Botanical.com

[2] - Connecticut Botanical Society

[3] - Google images

[4] - Ageless.co.za

[5] - Wikipedia

[7] - Malvaceae.info

[8] - Wikipedia


  About Adina Dosan  
Adina DosanAdina is a Romanian plants and pets addicted, always happy to share her experience. Follow her on Google.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Marshmallow billyporter 4 8 Jan 20, 2012 7:23 AM
Zebrina Hollyhock billyporter 2 5 Jan 20, 2012 4:26 AM
Just wonderin'... steadycam3 3 9 Jan 20, 2011 12:53 PM
Wonderful article! Yuska 14 72 Jul 28, 2010 9:09 AM
Mallows Cambium 1 10 Jul 26, 2010 12:16 PM
Mallows goldnuggetAK 1 13 Jul 26, 2010 11:58 AM
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