How to Find and Prepare Nutritious, Edible Mallows

This article was originally published by Joan Hall on


Mallows (part of “Edible Weeds in Los Angeles”)

Facts, fun, and recipes, all about the common mallow plant.

Mallows are an annual plant, and sometimes they are nowhere to be seen. But when mallows are in season, they dominate the streets here in Los Angeles, tall and plentiful.

Mallows are an enemy to the well-manicured lawn, but a friend to foragers. My son, JG, loves mallows. They’re one of his favorite vegetables.

My son, BT, standing next to some mallow plants that have grown as tall as he is!

Getting acquainted with mallows

Common mallow — Malva neglecta

The genus name for mallow is malva. Malva is derived from the Greek malakos, which means “soft”. I’m guessing that’s a reference to its mucilaginous flavor (a little gooey).

Malva is a large family of plants. I think the species I see around here include M. neglecta and M. parviflora.

Neglecta is Latin and, as you might expect, means “neglected” or “ignored”. The word neglecta is frequently used in naming weeds that spring up in untended areas.

This is the Best Natural Painkiller, and Grows in Your Backyard!

Parviflora is Latin also and means “small-flowered”. The flowers are, indeed, dwarfed by the leaves.

Another nickname for mallows is “cheeseweed”, because the little round seedpods look like little cheeses.

Mallows are one of the “conquistador” weeds here in the Americas! They originated in Europe and Asia, were introduced to the New World by European settlers, and then proceeded to take over the territory.

Malva plants are a close relative of the marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis) whose gooey sap was originally an ingredient in marshmallow candies.

But now they use gelatin instead.

That’s my hand, holding an almost completely round mallow leaf.

Identifying mallows

The most obvious identifying characteristic for mallows is their leaves. On some plants the lobes are very distinct; on others the leaves are almost completely round.

More distinctly lobed mallow leaves. The flowers can also be seen. Photographed in a yard near the 105 freeway in Lynwood.

The flowers and the round seed pods are small and are often obscured by the leaves.

The small, round, light green thing is the seed pod. Isn’t it cute? Photographed in a vacant lot in Lynwood.

Nutritional info about mallow plants

Mallows are a good source of those “best friend” minerals, calcium and magnesium. They also contain potassium, iron, selenium, and vitamins A and C.

Mallows as a solution to 21st-century problems?

In her book “Developing Markets for Agrobiodiversity”, Alessandra Giuliani includes mallows as one of the plants that should be developed as a crop to promote biodiversity in agriculture as a way to deal with Third World poverty and climate change.

Eating mallows

Salad, salad, salad! (and other stuff)

Because it’s a weed that grows plentifully in neglected areas, mallows have been used throughout history as a survival food during times of crop failure or war.

All parts of the mallow plant are edible — the leaves, the stems, the flowers, the seeds, and the roots (it’s from the roots that cousin Althaea gives the sap that was used for marshmallows).

Forgotten Recipes That We Lost To History

One of the most popular uses of mallows is as a salad green. My favorite salad base is a combination of mallow and sow thistle leaves. The softness of the mallow and the sharpness of the sow thistle complement each other so nicely.

Mallows in a salad.

Mallows are high in mucilage, a sticky substance that gives them a slightly slimy texture, similar to okra. I prefer not to eat them alone because of this, but they’re great mixed with other foods in a salad.

Some people really dig the mucilaginous taste, though. My son loves to eat mallows all by themselves and gets excited whenever he sees that mallow season has returned.

Mallows can also be eaten cooked. Here are a few recipes:

  • Melokhia (a soup)
  • Mallow soup (this one’s vegetarian)
  • Here in Los Angeles, the mallows grow lots of big leaves but the flowers are pretty tiny. But if you live in area where the mallow flowers get large enough, they can be used in some neat recipes like:
  • Sacred beans, an ancient Roman recipe

Mallows are good news for vegans!

The liquid produced from boiling mallows can be used in recipes as a substitute for eggs (be aware, though, that it’s green).

Here are instructions.

Medicinal uses for mallows

The mucilaginous properties of mallows make them popular as a soothing remedy for coughs and colds. They are thought to be useful as well for inflammation of digestive, urinary, or respiratory organs.

Mallows are also regarded as soothing and healing to the skin.


Can you imagine eating an entire tree?

 You’ve probably seen it countless times and you had no idea that all parts of tree are edible.


Do You Recognize this Tree? [All Parts are Edible]    This is the ultimate survival tree that grows on almost every street in America.

 In a survival situation, all YOU need is a good tree! The four core survival priorities: shelter, water, fire and food.

 But there’s only one tree which truly has it all and more. Check it out.


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