Common Mallow (Malva neglecta) is called a super food in some circles. It is one of the easiest wild edibles/weeds to identify in my opinion (probably because I have so much of it growing on my Homestead). It can be a great survival food, addition to your daily greens intake, medicinal, and I have discovered is a favorite of my pasture meat rabbits.
Mallow can grow anywhere from a few inches high to over 5′ tall. I have places this year due to the rains that are over my head. Normal is waist high (lots of armpit high this year). The size of the leaves also vary due to climate and individual growing conditions. Most of mine is palm sized leaves, but scattered around are freak plants with leaves the size of dinner plates. In drier areas where Mallow grows closer to the ground and the leaves may only get an inch across.
Marsh Mallow is related but usually grows in damp areas, hence the name. It also appears to have much larger and more distinct flowers. For years I never even noticed the tiny Common Mallow flowers nor the seeds due to the over abundance of green leaves. The entire plant is edible raw or cooked. It doesn’t go bitter as it ages like so many other weeds. The root and stem juices are most often used medicinally. The plant overall is higher in protein than most other wild edibles like dandelion and stinging nettle. It is the seeds that look like tiny round cheese wheels that pack a whopping 21% protein and 15.2% fat. (The seed appearance is what gives it the nickname “Cheese Weed” or “Cheeses Mallow”). They can be snacked on while green or dried for future use. Native Americans used to dry and grind into flour and also add to soups and stews. The smaller mallows have small seeds about 1/4″ across, but the bigger the Mallow the bigger the seed. The biggest I have seen was about 3/4″ across. Common for me is about 1/2″ across.
For those with an acid stomach, a smoothie or tea infusion made with mallow can provide much relief and help to further balance pH by increasing alkalinity. The leaves are additionally rich in pectin, chlorophyll, fiber, vitamins A and C as well as calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium and potassium. As a natural diuretic, mallow leaves can assist in increasing urine flow and help to rid excess fluid and salts without reducing potassium levels, a common side effect of many diuretics. Malva also provides relief when recovering from urinary tract infections.
Malva leaves have been used for centuries all over the globe for their ability to reduce and cool inflamed conditions. Used both topically and internally the abundance of mucilage found in all parts of the plant offers relief for joint inflammation as well as various skin issues. Consumed as a food, it is a very good dietary supplement for restoring damaged skin tissue and excellent for healing wounds, bruises and especially burns.
As with some other superfoods, like aloe-vera, the effects of the polysaccharide-rich gel are furthermore exceptional for relieving and healing conditions like peptic ulcers or ulcerative colitis.
My rabbits obviously know a good thing when they taste it. Mallow has become such a big source of food for the meat rabbits and goats that I no longer consider it a weed. My sister and her kids stopped by today and couldn’t believe how the Mallow has taken over. They asked why I wasn’t chopping it down. Well I consider it a great free food source for myself and my animals. Can’t get any better than free. So I no longer worry about what a weed infested place this humble Homestead looks like. I let the weeds (all edible or medicinal) do their thing with no help from me. I am a lazy gardener who takes joy in finding big patches of stinging nettle or the formerly despised Hore Hound because I can put them all to use.
I will have a lot of future posts on edible and medicinal “weeds”. If you have a county ag office in the area, they are a great source of help. I bring unknown weeds in and they give me the scientific name so I can research the plant’s uses. I have some favorite weed ID guides that I will rant about. I have quite a library but have found the newest books published in the last couple years are the most helpful. Technology has brought the cost of printing books with abundant color pictures down to the affordable level. This is one case where the old books in black and white with hand drawings just don’t cut it when trying to identify wild plants. Now those old books do have some interesting medicinal uses and recipes listed, but the newer books are now not only identification guides, but provide some scientifically proven medicinal uses and some warnings you should heed.
Being a Homestead Prepper means educating yourself and changing your perspectives. Weeds are no longer weeds, but potential food or medicine for yourself and your animals. Not to mention being used to make compost for your garden or to just cut and drop to enrich your soil when you have too much of a good thing.