This plant known as marshmallow plant is actually a beautiful flowering plant that gives its name to the dessert, not the other way around. The marshmallow plant is native to Western Europe and North Africa, the botanical name of the plant is Althaea officinalis and the plant has had an important place in human culture for millennia. The marshmallow plant root was boiled and eaten as a vegetable by the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians. Also it is mentioned as being eaten in times of famine in the Bible.

Furthermore, the marshmallow plant has also been used medicinally for a longtime. (The name “Althea,” in actual fact, comes from the Greek “althos,” which simply means “healer”). The plant root actually contains a slimy sap that humans aren’t able to digest. When it’s eaten, it actually passes through the digestive system and leaves behind a soothing coating. Even today the marshmallow plant is used for a wide variety of medical ailments. The plant gets its common name, however, from a confection developed in Europe much later.  

Some French chefs later discovered that the sap from the plant roots could be whipped with sugar and egg whites to create a sweet, moldable treat. Thus, the ancestor of the modern marshmallow was born. Unfortunately, the marshmallows you buy in the store today are not made from this plant.


How to Care for Marshmallow Plant

If you actually want to grow marshmallow plants at home you will need a relatively wet place to do it. As the name actually suggests, marshmallow plants like moist soil. Marshmallow plants grow best in full sun. The plants tend to reach a height of about four to five feet and they should not be grown with other sun loving plants, as they will quickly grow up and shade them out. The Marshmallow plants are very cold hardy, and they can survive down to USDA zone four. The Marshmallow seeds are best sown directly into the ground in late summer or early fall. The Marshmallow plant seeds can also be planted in the spring, though they will need to be chilled for several weeks first. Once they are established, little care is needed for the plant, as the plants are considered fairly low maintenance.

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