Althaea officinalis (marshmallow, marsh mallow, or common marshmallow) is a species indigenous to Africa, which is used as a medicinal plant and ornamental plant. A confection made from the root of the marshmallow plant since ancient Egyptian time evolved into today's marshmallow treat which in its modern form, typically consists of sugar and/or corn syrup, water, and gelatin, whipped to a spongy consistency, molded into small cylindrical pieces, and coated with corn starch. Most of the mallows have been used as food, and are mentioned by early classic writers with this connection.
Mallow was an edible vegetable among the Romans; a dish of marsh mallow was one of their delicacies. Many of the poorer inhabitants of Syria subsist for weeks on herbs, of which marsh mallow is one of the most common. When boiled first and fried with onions and butter, the roots are said to form a palatable dish, and in times of scarcity consequent upon the failure of the crops, this plant, which fortunately grows there in great abundance, is collected heavily as a foodstuff. The root extract is sometimes used as flavouring in the making of a Middle Eastern snack called halva.
The flowers and young leaves can be eaten, and are often added to salads or are boiled and fried. The later French version of the recipe, called pâte de guimauve, included an eggwhite meringue and was often flavored with rose water. It is said that not so far from France deep in the black forest in the very south of Germany a small group of people created a secret recipe of gin using marsh mallow flowers as one of their anchor botanical.
Mon dieu, those germans!