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The Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) is indigenous to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. It has been naturalized in the eastern United States. The habitats for Marsh Mallow include the upper margins of salt and brackish marshes, sides of ditches, and grassy banks near the sea. (Plants For A Future, 2011) The stems, which die back in the autumn, are erect, 3 to 4 feet (1.2 m) tall, and unbranched with only a few lateral branches. The leaves, attached by a short petiole, are ovate-cordate in shape, 2 to 3 inches long and about 1 1/4 inch wide, irregularly toothed at the edge, and thick. They are soft and velvety on both sides, due to a dense covering of stellate hairs. The pale pink flowers of the Marsh Mallow are in bloom during August and September and are followed by the flat, round fruit. The leaves, flowers, and root of A. officinalis are all purported to have medicinal properties. Marsh Mallow has been traditionally used as a treatment for the irritation of mucus membranes, including use as a gargle for mouth, throat, and gastric ulcers. The use of Marsh Mallow to make a candy dates back to ancient Egypt, where the recipe called for extracting sap from the root of the plant and mixing it with nuts and honey. Candy makers in early 19th century France made the innovation of whipping up the Marsh Mallow sap and sweetening it to make a confection similar to modern marshmallows. In the late 19th century, French manufacturers devised a way to get around the need to extract the sap by substituting egg whites or gelatin, combined with modified corn starch, to create the chewy base. This French recipe more closely resembles contemporary commercially available marshmallows, which no longer contain any actual Marsh Mallow. (Wikipedia, 2011)


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