A new weed has appeared in my lawn and it’s a member of the mallow family.
We’re not talking about roast-able marshmallows here, although it ends up there is an ancestral connection. Cousin to okra, hibiscus, cola nuts, and cocoa, the mallow family also includes cotton, hollyhocks, and linden trees. And an Old School ingredient of marshmallows. But we’ll have to get to that another day. Weeds move fast! I needed to stay focused before deciding what to do about this new weed.
Now, my Malva neglecta poses a problem for me. On the one hand, it is an invasive weed that attracts orange tortrix moths and weevils. On the other hand, it is an edible that clearly grows without any effort on my part. What’s a gardener to do?
I do what I always do - I learn more about it.
Here’s what I have learned about common mallow.
Common mallow plants
Common mallow is also known as buttonweed, cheeseplant (another great name!), roundleaf mallow, and dwarf mallow. This weed is native to Morocco, Mongolia, and Spain, just to name a few. In fact, this little weed really gets around!
Apparently, once common mallow appears, it can be hard to get rid of. [Uh, oh!] Tough, cheese wheel-shaped pods can hold and protect 10-12 seeds for decades. Once germination starts, a tough taproot stakes its claim, searching for hard-to-reach water and nutrients. Ultimately, plants can get 6-24” tall. I haven't seen any yet, but they produce pinkish-white flowers in mid-summer.
Common mallow plants can be annual or biennial plants, most often found in neglected areas. [I have to assume seeds blew in from my neighbor’s yard because there’s nothing neglected about my yard. Well, maybe a couple spots…]
An edible weed
The leaves, seeds, and stems of common mallow are edible. Mature seeds are cooked like rice, and immature seeds are eaten raw. I was surprised to learn that common mallow seeds contain 21% protein and 15.2% fat!
Traditionally, people have chewed the leaves to treat sore throats. Since most mallow family plants produce mucus, I suppose that it soothes irritation the same way apple pectin does. But I’m guessing. There are countless claims about common mallow as a medicinal plant, providing relief for everything from the common cold to childbirth difficulties. According to WebMD, there is currently no scientific evidence to back any medical claims made about common mallow.
So, the question is, should I pull them all up or let them grow?
As much as I love growing edibles, I think this one is going to have to go. First off, it is an invasive plant. Secondly, my husband really wants at least a little bit of green lawn in my backyard garden. Gotta keep the peace, right? There it is, the mallow goes. But that brings me to something else.
As you may have heard me say before, you can use the weeds in your yard to help you figure out which edibles should grow equally well. Since I know common mallows can grow well in my yard, maybe it’s time to try growing okra…
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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