There are over two hundred varieties of mallow plants. One of them grows in marshes and is called a ‘Marshmallow’ (Althea officinalis). You see where this is going. Is there any relationship between the sugar puffs available in the store, and the marshmallow plant?
If you went by the ingredient list on a typical bag of marshmallows, you wouldn’t think so. Historically though, there is. The ancient Egyptians used to make a gooey confection as early as 2000 B.C.E. from the sap of the marshmallow plant, honey and nuts. It was so good it was reserved for nobility, royalty and the gods.
In the early to mid-1800’s, French candy stores began making a candy from the marshmallow root. They soon discovered that by whipping the sap and adding egg whites, they could mold the candy, producing something that approaches the modern marshmallow. This was sold as an adult treat, and often prescribed by doctors as a sore throat remedy.
In the late 1800’s, gelatin replaced the marshmallow sap making the candy easier to make, but useless medicinally. The ‘starch mogul’ system, which uses modified cornstarch as molds, was also developed around this time. In 1948, Alex Doumak developed the extrusion process that gives us the marshmallow we know today.
Ever since I started using marshmallow leaf and root in some of my tea blends, I’ve wondered about making marshmallows from the marshmallow plant. Marshmallow root boiled in water produces a somewhat thick, syrupy liquid, a sort of thin gel. It’s been used for centuries to sooth sore throats.
Searching the internet for homemade marshmallow recipes turned up several variations of recipes using gelatin. I’m certain these would make healthier, better tasting marshmallow than what you can buy in a store, and I may try some of these sometime. But this isn’t what I was looking for.
I did find a couple of recipes that use the marshmallow root. One simply added powdered marshmallow root to a whipped egg and sugar mixture. This would give the resulting marshmallows the medicinal benefits of the root, but it doesn’t take advantage of the root’s gelling properties. Which means it might be a good way to make use of other medicinal herbs, but that would be a blog for another day.
There were a few that seemed to be what I was looking for, but their instructions were incomplete. The ingredients were right, but the amounts varied where they were given at all. I decided to experiment with this group. By experimenting with the techniques, modifying the ingredient amounts, and maybe adding an ingredient or two, I’m hoping to develop a relatively easy marshmallow recipe from the marshmallow plant!
Look for updates, including my first recipe, coming later this week.