Sunday, 17 March 2013

Malva sylvestris - Mallow (Μολόχα)

One of the most rampant weeds of our garden is the mallow plant, Malva sylvestris, μολόχα (mo-LO-ha) in Greek. It is a strange plant, growing on a sturdy stem and very tall when it is left untouched, so that it almost looks like a tree when growing out of harm's way. But most of the time, we see it in fields and gardens, growing as a tall large shrub. Its leaves resmble that of the grapevine's and when it blooms at the end of winter, it brings forth pretty pink-purple flowers. It grows literally everywhere on the island.


File:Mallow January 2008-1.jpgThe mallow plant is edible, and has various uses. The flower is often found in dried form, and used as a tea sweetened with honey, which soothes bad coughs. The leaves can be used for bronchial and unrinary disorders, and the roots are used as a poultice for skin inflammations and ulcers.

The flowers are still used in Greece for tea, while the leaves are used in cooking, to make dlomadakia, in the same way as with grapevine leaves. It also helps that the shape of the mallow leaf is similar to the grapevine leaf, so that they are treated in exactly the same way.


Mallow plants (large pile of leaves, below dock leaves) are washed and blanched before use, to make them more flexible for filling. 

I made some moloho-dolmades recently, before my husband cleared the garden of all the weeds, in preparation for summer planting. The taste of mallow cooked mallow leaves is very peppery.

This extremely frugal dish used a range of leaves found in our garden (mallow, spinach, dock and chard), which were filled (along with some shelled tomatoes frozen from last summer) with rice flavoured with onion, olive oil and garden herbs - fennel weed, parsley and mint.

Mallow leaf parcels give you a taste of what spring has in store - just as they become to fibrous for the grapevine leaves are just starting to sprout.



The Egyptians also use a kind of leaf they call 'molokhiya', which sounds similar to 'mallow'/'moloha'; both these species are from the same family (the Malvaceae, as is the okra plant), but they are quite different species. The Egyptian mallow is one of most commonly cultivated plants, whereas Greek mallow wild in grate abundance.

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