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26 responses to “Foraging Mallow – Hiding in Plain Sight”

  1. Julia

    I’ve never seen mallow grow, but I often buy the Jew’s Mallow (jute leaves) frozen at Arab markets. Alas, I couldn’t make dolmadas with this form. And it would seem that these leaves are much smaller than what you’ve found. I usually just stew it with chicken, onions and coriander (and lots of lemon) which is wonderful!

  2. deana@lostpastremembered

    Hank: I wonder if this is similar to the rose mallow that grows like a weed in the NE.. a lovely weed but a weed and with smaller leaves. It has been used as a herbal remedy for country folk since… well forever. Never knew about eating it… that is very cool. I have worked with marshmallow and love hibiscus.. what an amazing family of plants! Thanks for the info.. I wonder if the plants grow in the east. I may have seen them and not known what they are.

  3. cathy

    Wow! This is such an inspiring post. I’m going to dig out my copy of the Wolfert book and see if any of the wild greens she writes about might have counterparts here in my garden.

    I’m envious of your dolmada folding technique.

  4. Kirsten

    Awesome post! SoCal mallow is probably gone by now if you’re seeing the last of yours. Too bad, I love dolmas and have been mourning the fact that I no longer live in Minnesota where wild grape twines up every telephone pole! Love the geeky food extras (what is that food listserv you’re on??)

  5. Jocelyn

    Seriously, Hank, your dolmas look perfectly rolled. I made some tasty wild dolmas about a month ago using gigantic nasturtium leaves and a filling of tomatoey rice and sauteed dock. The dock was a perfect addition with its super savory, lemony flavor. It more than made up for the nasturtium leaves being fresh, not brined (though on that note, the nasturtiums also ended up being a revelation, with their peppery bite).

    By the way, I love that you sometimes make it to my stomping grounds so I get to take advantage of your eagle eye. I knew exactly which pier in Bodega Bay you were referring to and happened to be there a few days later, so with just a tiny bit of searching I found that patch of sea beans that I probably never would have seen otherwise. Thanks!

  6. Josh

    That stuff was great! It sure helped lighten that Epic Fish&Forage trip we made.

  7. Lang

    Nice use of mallow, though be judicious with the roadside foraging. Highways, railroads, and telephone poles are pretty much toxic hotspots wherever you find them. Country lanes and logging roads are an issue because of herbicides used to keep the shoulders clear. I seem to remember a study that advised giving a 100 yard berth on either side of a highway. One of my best dandelion patches is near 1-5 and is now, unfortunately, off the list. The dilemmas of modern foraging!

  8. Kevin Adams

    I’m afraid I’m with Lang on this one.

  9. Mimi

    Thanks for the link to my mallows post, Hank. I was interested to see that mallows are in season where you are. Here in Israel, their best time has gone. The big, soft leaves have shrunk down as the plant’s energy goes into maintaining the long stems and roots.

    Another thing to do with mallow leaves is to hang them up to dry, and store them in a cool dry place when all the moisture is out of them. Chuck them into any soup later on. Especially good in winter when leafy greens are scarce.

    Now mulberries are coming into season – you can stuff mulberry leaves too.

  10. Melissa

    I just love this – I grew up eating Pazi Dolmasi (Mallow dolmas) and eating the mallow in boreks (like spanakopita) and such – I am half Turkish. In fact, I just spoke to my mom and told her about your post and she said she had coincidentally picked up a huge bundle of mallow at the pazar (outdoor market) earlier today! I haven’t made dolmas in AGES and I’m now having a big craving for them.

    I have also had mallow in Egypt, I believe it was mallow anyway. It was called molokhaya and I know it is prepared in a variety of ways there but I had it in a broth based soup, where it was chopped quite finely. It was absolutely delicious! I need to figure out how to make that and if I do I will share. Oh, and get my hands on some mallow!

  11. Carol

    Giant mallow plants with huge leaves are still running rampant here in So. Calif.–though I don’t know if the leaves are still worth picking. Do they need to be younger leaves, Hank, or are mature leaves okay? The plants themselves have already gone to seed (someday I will try picking and cooking the immature fruits–they’re nice trail munchies when raw, and as they’re related to okra will probably be similar when cooked). I wanted to try stuffing nasturtium leaves, but I got a bad aphid infestation and had to cut my plants way back. Ah, well, they’ll grow back!

  12. Sarah

    I enjoyed this post, although the season from mallows is over in Israel, as Mimi mentioned, the grape and mulberries are just coming out. I stuffed mulberry leaves with the usual rice and herbs with the addition of dried cherries which made an interesting addition. I don’t have Paula Wolfert’s grains book but do have Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean which is wonderful. She has a few interesting Northern Greek pies in which she uses foraged greens.

  13. fethiye

    Hey Hank! 😉 I am kind of back to blogging!!! Baby is about to be 2 years old, and now I kind of have more time…

    I hate that mallows like the roadside! One more reason I have not had any when I was pregnant and breastfeeding. Just could not bring myself to do so.

    Btw, I have just planted some sunchokes in our garden, and if, for some reason, they do not take off, I wanted to ask you for some… Is that ok? I know you had some coming out of your ears at some point! 😉

  14. Catalin

    Hi. I just found your post on mallow and can’t wait to try using the leaves for dolmas. I do a lot of foraging in my urban backyard–I like to let weeds grow until I decide whether they are welcome or not. Last year, when we moved in, I let the mallow grow, not sure if it might be hollyhocks (clearly a relative). Once it bloomed, I was happy with the flowers, even though it was mallow rather than hollyhocks. This year I’ve got many more coming up, including some in my front yard which have turned out to look quite different from those in the back (paler, smaller flowers, smaller, more toothed leaves, and taller plants–about 8′). My plants in back have leaves that are 10-12 inches across.

    I was going to attach photos, but don’t think I can attach to a comment. Down here in the Bay Area (I live in Richmond), the mallow is just beginning to bloom and will bloom through the summer. If you want, I can send you seeds from my large mallow plants. You can guerrilla plant them in some wild place where you would like to forage for them next year…

    I look forward to reading more of your blog. Cheers,

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  17. Mark Preston

    Hank. I know this is an old post, but your link to the seeds at Kitazawa take me to their page ( Molokhia or Corchorus olitorius. The Mallow you have pictured looks like malva verticillata. Are the pictures from the seeds?

  18. SongSparra

    I can’t believe I’ve just found this site after spending the day in the garden spraying you guessed it, Mallow! My yard (half acre) was filled with them some nearly as tall as me and I just hacked, slashed, and binned them for the green waste tomorrow and sprayed the remnants *head table*! Guess next year I’ll pull some up and replant them into a suitable area and go a preserving! Thanks for a really helpful page.

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  21. David I

    Car exhaust in roadside plants used to be a big danger with respects to heavy metals, but since tetraethyl lead was eliminated from gasoline in 1992 in California and 1996 in the whole US, exhaust is now metals-free. (TEL has never been used in diesel.)

    That said, the immediate roadside is still a sketchy place for harvesting. Some roadsides are sprayed. Even those that aren’t accumulate all the runoff from the road surface–which includes oil, tars, and, more frightening by far, anything that might have been spilled on the road. In addition, all that lead from before the ban is often still in the soil–especially in drier regions of the country.

    Ten or fifteen feet back from the road is a much safer environment. But no soil is really safe unless you know its history–including your own backyard!

  22. Deni

    Aside from being edible, mallow is fantastic for compost, so throw whatever you don’t use in the compost pile or just drop in on the ground as mulch (before it starts to produce seeds, unless you want a lot more). The deep tap root collects lots of nutrients and brings them up into the leaves. Also great to feed to other animals like chickens, goats, pigs, horses, etc.
    I first learned about eating the immature seeds, which taste a little like green beans. Fun but time consuming to harvest. The young, small leaves are the most tender for raw eating and not as fuzzy.
    Thanks for the great article and all the comments.

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