Category Archives: poetry
Nicknames: Cheeseweed, Dwarf Mallow, Round Mallow, Cheese Plant
***important…please do not confuse Common Mallow with the Common Carolina Geranium Weed. The geranium weed has more deeply dissected leaves but these two can be easily confused!***
Please note image of the Carolina Geranium weed in the following site:
More about Common Mallow
Habitat: grows in areas where
soil has been disturbed:
Sides of roads
Likes sandy soil
Can grow in clay
or loamy soil
Likes full sunlight
Can do partial shade
Can grow with some dampness in soil
Prefers well drained soil
Can grow up to 2 feet tall
All parts including roots are edible
The following site is comprehensive and gives information on planting, pollination, avoiding nitrates, hardiness zones, where it grows in the world, etc.
These are all my photos. A happy endeavor and a learning reference tool also! Please bring a good field guide or forager who knows!
*Some people have confused ground ivy with common mallow!*
Some ground ivy smells like mint.
And, the edible ground ivy is in the mint family.
This is ground Ivy!
Some ground ivy is edible*** but not all ground cover is edible.***
Here are sites on edible ground ivy
Now back to Common Mallow:
According to http://www.livestrong.com:
Historians have traced Malva neglecta’s use as a vegetable back almost 3,000 years. The ancients used leaves and shoots as cooking greens and salad ingredients, while the seeds were used to accent dishes or as snacks. The plant’s traditional medicinal uses included soothing skin rashes and easing coughs. It was also used to reduce inflammation in the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.
Not far away from this plant was this beautiful bridge above the Snake River.
INSIGHT AND REFLECTIONS:
I found the common mallow about 3 miles away from the Snake River Gorge in Idaho. This bridge and shadow forms an ellipse. A path that brings you back. After an orbit of other experiences. Like a marker in time. It helps me reflect upon the fact that the common mallow was the first edible/medicinal weed I learned about on this journey of documenting wild plants. It caught my interest as I was web surfing wild edible and medicinal plants. I posted it on facebook to share with others. I had found a helpful site…all about common mallow. Malva neglecta. I wanted to share an interesting site. That event was a marker for me. A few months later, I started writing and researching and photographing wild edibles myself. I started the blog that you are reading now. Malva neglecta took me on a journey. An elliptical one. Like an orbit. I am changed now since I first posted an internet site about common mallow. Because, it caught my interest then. And, now I have first hand experience looking for, researching and eating mallow as a wild edible. I have come around the ellipse changed. And, malva neglecta got me there. Waiting for me to turn the bend around the ellipse to find it in real space and time.
I am learning a lot about wild edibles. Documenting and photographing plants when and where I can. I am an enthusiast and a student as I go. I research as much as I can.
I wonder too, about the qualities each plant contains. Common mallow is mucilaginous and soothing. It helps with stomach upset. It soothes skin abrasians and heals skin wounds. It is common. It is found many places in the world. It has been a food during times of starvation. It is nutrient rich and is related to such beautiful plants as hollyhock and the beautiful Rose of Sharon. Even jute leaves are edible. The mallow family has taught me a lot and I have only just begun.
I did an art and poetry piece about common mallow: Malva neglecta. Reflecting on what I have learned about the plant and how it reflects some learning in my life.
So learning about plants and wild edibles and medicinal edibles means you get to “get real” about the experience. So, the next day after locating some and photographing it, I picked some common mallow for the first time. I wonder how many of my ancestors foraged for mallow too? I was excited about foraging. It did not look like an area that had experienced run off from farms or other pollutants. Common mallow can absorb nitrates from contaminated soil so some caution here is warranted.
But, it looked like a good foraging area to me so I went and picked some.
I tried some common mallow along with young lettuce leaves. What I noticed is that soon after I picked it the mallow wilted quickly.
I have limited refrigeration as I travel so I put the mallow in a bowl with a bit of water to keep it from wilting too much. I harvested at noon so the noon heat in Idaho in July may have contributed to the wilting. When I took the mallow out later they had absorbed the water and looked perky again.
I harvested the small wheels of fruit which people say look a lot like small wheels of cheese. I foraged the flowers, flower buds, stems and leaves too.
I boiled them for just a few minutes. They were delightful tasting. They could easily substitute or be mixed with spinach either raw or cooked.
I had a very favorable experience foraging Malva neglecta. I hope you do too!
(On a cautionary note here is some information about nitrates:)
While learning about foraging and wild edibles and medicinal plants, I really enjoy and appreciate this perspective by Susun Weed:
“Let’s focus on the Malvaceae family for a moment. One of my favorite ways of learning — and teaching — about plants is through their families. Each plant family is a group of plants that has the same flower chacteristics. Interestingly enough, the plants in a family frequently have the similar actions and uses. Learning about a plant family, rather than just one plant, not only helps you identify more plants, it gives you an idea of how to use them.”
HEALING PROPERTIES and FOOD USE:
Also according to Susun Weed:
“Virtually all parts of the mallows have been eaten or used as medicine including the fresh leaves, dried leaves, fresh roots, dried roots, and both green and ripe seeds.
The primary effect of most mallows is to soothe and heal mucus surfaces. Overheated respiratory, digestive, reproductive, and urinary systems especially benefit.
The mucilage present in the roots and seeds, and to a lesser degree the leaves, can help ease and heal irritations and infections such as sore throats, acid indigestion, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, bronchitis, chronic coughs, badder infections, interstitial cystitis, colds, and dry mouth. Some sources find mallow medicine helpful for those with diabetes, painful periods, and lack of menstruation.”
The mallow family includes beautiful, edible, medicinal, and useful plants such as hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, hollyhock, marshmallow, okra, jute, and cotton. (Cotton is not edible)
Susun Weed also describes mallow’s benefits including malva neglecta:
Excellent for “healing and relieving the pain of cuts, scrapes, boils, bruises, swellings, and stings…
I (Susun Weed) especially likes mixing chopped fresh hibiscus or mallow leaves with honey and applying this to my eyelids to relieve tired, sore, dry eyes. Works great as a facial, too!”
I found the following site and cited text very helpful.
“Uses Commonly used as a demulcent or emollient (7). Stems and leaves can be made as a poultice to relive pain and inflammation (7). Tea is pleasant tasting, good for sore throats and tonsillitis(7). Traditionally drunk in New Mexico for facilitation of labor and as a wash for skin irritations in infants (7). The tea can also help indigestion, stomach sensitivity, and can be gargled for cough relief (8). Entire plant has been boiled and eaten esp. used in soups; flowers are more pleasant in taste (2). Flowers are popularly eaten after being pickled (2). Leaves and young fruits have been used in salads (2).”
TRADITIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN USE:
“The Cherokee Indians put the flowers in oil and mixed them with tallow for use on sores. The Iroquois Indians made a compound infusion of plants applied as poultice to swellings of all kinds, and for broken bones. They also applied it to babies’ swollen stomach or sore back. The Mahuna Indians used the plant for painful congestions of the stomach. The Navajo, Ramah Indians made a cold infusion of plants taken and used as a lotion for injuries or swellings. The plant is also an excellent laxative for young children.”
“Other Uses: Cream, yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the plant and the seed heads. The root has been used as a toothbrush.”
(The roots can be untwisted and dried to make a brush.)
*Sap from the leaves, called ~mucilage~ can treat bites and stings.
*Mallow makes a weavable fiber…useful fiber
“The flowers were used formerly on May Day by country people for strewing before their doors and weaving into garlands. Musk mallow, was also used to decorate the graves of friends.”
According to this Source: http://www.squidoo.com/malva
I have a treasured reference. A book I refer to often and have with me whenever I need to look at something or gain more information about a plant or how or when to forage, etc. This is it.
Edible Wild Plants. North American Field Guide to over 200 Natural Foods. by Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, Sterling Publishing 1982.
Here are guidelines and information from this reference. P. 146
FOOD USES AND PREPARATION:
Eat malva fruits raw
*Boiled root water can be a vegan
Substitute for meringue!
Strain roots also
Boil until thick
Beat and drop spoonfuls on waxed paper and cool to make a candy. Roll in confectioner’s sugar
Fry boiled rootslices in butter
And ch. onion until browned
The whole plant contains mucilagelike material
Leaves can be eaten like spinach raw or cooked
Use in soups as a thickener
Flowers and fruit and seeds are edible
Along with stems, leaves and roots
Flower buds are good pickled and most likely fruit too.
I hope that you enjoy foraging for Malva neglecta! Common mallow is a commmon wonderful edible and/or medicinal weed! Enjoy!
Wild Prickly Lettuce
An annual plant
or biennial plant
-It can grow to over 6 feet in height
-found in fields, disturbed sites such as roadsides,
-Originally a plant from Europe. Originating first
Wild prickly lettuce going to seed.
***Use a good field guide to identify plants. Forage with someone who knows.***
I often refer to:
Edible Wild Plants. By Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman. Sterlingpublishing.com
*Plus I research numerable other sources…please do the same.*
Well, our semi-trailer truck broke down. A great spill of oil from our engine. A deplorable event for the immediate environment and for our day. Wouldn’t you know it? We broke down to the closest town. Bliss, Idaho.
Once we sussed out what was going on. Put the emergency triangles out. Made calls to emergency repair trucks (who ended up ripping us off for $300,) got the pets comfortable, made calls, sipped on water in the difficult heat with no AC…made lunch to fuel our reservoir of energy for dealing and enduring what became a 9 hour or longer wait by the side of the road, made more calls, waited twice for tow trucks that didn’t come, had our hopes dashed when one of the tow trucks forgot to bring required equipment. Tried to navigate our options. Finally in the late evening we got towed to the Freightliner 50 or so miles away. Cha-ching what a day.
Amidst all this chaos and lapses in the heat. I couldn’t help but admire the wild prickly lettuce greeting me assuredly from the side of the road. The name of my blog is wildlettucegal…I knew eventually, sooner than later, I would have amassed that lovely combo of timing, information, inspiration to write and the opportunities to inspect and photograph the lettuce.
I even wrote a blog about the road breakdown but, I deleted it. It lacked the oomph. I needed to tap into the tipping point of inspiration. And, today, two days later…I have found it.
As a child I was happily feverish about reading Greek and Roman mythology. I would spend hours, especially, reading about Odysseus or Ulysses. Other myths fascinated me. Medusa fascinated/terrified me. Images of her snake filled crown devastated my ability to sleep at night. The age of nine is when I distinctly remember flipping through a book on Greek mythology…only to be transfixed by her graphic image. Beheaded no less.
Needless to say I could have benefitted from wild lettuce’s soporific, dream inducing qualities. Being nine was a bad year for insomnia. That’s when I saw clips from the exorcist. Cinema’s graphic and gorey cinematic mythology. I did not sleep much at the age of nine.
I now have a tattoo of Medusa on my arm. When I started painting 15 years ago…Medusa was my first series of paintings. Somewhere during that series I remembered an image of myself at the age of nine flipping through a Greek mythology book and spotting the image of Medusa for the first time. I’m glad I took the art route around that one.
So, as you may now understand, in my quirky sense of jubilance…and even current interest in mythology old and new, I was thrilled to learn the mythology connected to wild prickly lettuce.
According to Wikipedia:
The lovely, passionate and triumphant goddess Aphrodite had put to final rest the lovely mortal Adonis who was slain by a boar.
She was transfixed by this beautiful mortal and grieved of his loss.
Aphrodite laid Adonis to rest on a bed of wild lettuce.
Sappho is also known to write and account this myth.
(Wild lettuce has a connection to the world of the dead and I wonder if it is its soporific qualities which provides this kind of mythological link. The dreamworld perhaps being a portal to the world of the dead. Or perhaps a closer realm?)
The Egyptian god Min is also associated with wild prickly lettuce.
The ancient greeks believed the juice of the plant was good for eye ulcers.
The Navajo use it as a ceremonial emetic.
It has a reputation as being calming and sleep inducing for insomniacs. It is even said to have mild opiate qualities.
Even today wild prickly lettuce is eaten in Crete. A variety of Maroula or agrimaroulo is eaten boiled. Culinary traditions remain to this day.
I’ve never tried it for anything other than an edible wild food but wouldn’t mind its calming effect either.
Similar to purslane which contains lithium. I like when food helps me feel better. But, I’m not recommending an overuse of the plant.
The plant seems to have a built in mechanism for overuse. Eating too many leaves causes stomach upset. And the seeds contain some tannins.
*For those of you interested in the healing aspects and indications of wild lettuce…here is a helpful site.
*Also, here is a comprehensive page about Wild Lettuce which also distinguishes it from
Wikipedia describes Lactuca virosa as well:
Here is a picture of Lactuca virosa
This image is from the following source:
© Br. Alfred Brousseau, Saint Mary’s College. Permission to use is granted freely to not-for-profit organizations and for a per-image fee for commercial use. Contact Prof. R. P. Olowin at St. Mary’s College email@example.com for more information.
And it is used medicinally and/or as a mild psychotropic but is not my focus here and has a wide range of historical use, but, not necessarily as wild edible. There are also a lot of side effects to its use. But, I wanted to include it here so as to distinguish it from the wild edible Lactuca serriola
Back to and in regard to Lactuca serriola
*I like the harvesting ethics outlined by Merriweather
NUTRITION AND HARVESTING TIPS:
*Lactuca serriola a.k.a. wild prickly lettuce is an annual or biennial plant so leave some plants to reproduce by seed.
*according to Elias and Dykeman: Leaf shapes can vary and can be multilobed/with points and/or oval oblong. Leaves are toothed and spiny along margin and main vein under leaf and the lower leaf surface.Proper identification is crucial.*
*I’ve read that older leaves are slightly toxic
*According to Merriweather,when the wild prickly lettuce plant flowers it is said to be inedible.
*Harvest young leaves they are the most tender
*Best to harvest from plants under 8 inches.
*older/larger leaves can be eaten when boiled
*Edible during spring and summer before the plant flowers or is in seed
*the spines on back of middle vein of leaf are usually soft enough to be eaten when the leaves are small.
*the spines on leaves do not tear clothing or injure
skin. But gloves may be useful re: sap, etc.
*leaves can be boiled as a pot green.
Herbalextractsplus.com sites these NUTRITIONAL qualities also:
When dried, the leaves produce a milky latex substance called lactucarium, which is used in herbal medicine. Some of the constituents in Wild Lettuce include the important milky latex substance (lactucarium), sesquiterpene lactones ( lactucopicrin), caoutchouc, mannitol, lactucin, fiber, coumarins and valuable minerals and vitamins.
Beneficial Uses: Wild Lettuce is considered a mild sedative herb.
Contains vitamin A, B and minerals
*I agree with Merriweather and only harvest one or two leaves per plant. I also consider how many plants are in the area I am harvesting from. Also look at the plant and harvest in such a way as not to kill the plant if you can.
It is known as the compass plant because in the sun the upper leaves twist round to hold their margins upright. 
Here are some new flowers emerging. I was happy to find these.
And here is a picture of wild prickly lettuce when it is a bit larger
And flowers sprouted out on long stems from the top
And a closeup view of flower buds
The leaves have a bit of a firm texture. Even the new leaves. The prickles on main vein of back of leaf are edible when new leaves are raw.
I thought the leaves would be good in a salad.
I tasted them raw and un-garnished and they do have a bitter aftertaste. But, I enjoyed them.
I also harvest 1 or 2 leaves per plant to avoid over-harvesting. I grasp the leaf and carefully strip it from the stalk. Another forager taught me this tip. You can see the ends on the leaves above were harvested this way rather than being sheered off.
Milky sap after pinching the top leaves off… were bitter when eaten raw…
You may want to wear gloves because the sap was milky. This may cause irritation to skin and it was sticky.
More on Mythology and Cultural Accounts of use of Wild Prickly Lettuce that inspired me to write this blog are these entries:
I found this on Mesocosm.net
a Sumerian poem about lettuce
Lettuce is My Hair
My hair is lettuce, [planted] by the water,
It is gukkal-lettuce, [planted] by the water….
My attendant arranges it,
The attendant arranges my hair which is lettuce, the most-favored of plants.
The brother brought me into his life-giving gaze,
Shu-Sin has called me to (his) refreshing …. without [end].
You are our lord, you are our lord,
Silver (and) lapis lazuli – you are our lord,
Farmer who makes the grain stand high, – you are our lord,
For him who is the honey of my eye, who is the lettuce of my heart,
May the days of life come forth…..
It is a balbale of Inanna.
Translated by S. N. Kramer, from the indispensable volume
Pritchard JB (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Princeton University Press. 1969.
***And, finally I found this wonderful site on plants in mythology and have excerpted their info on Prickly Lettuce here:
Greek : Thridax
Species : Lactuca serriola
Description : The ancient Greeks cultivated the wild prickly lettuce. The plant has tall stalks with elongated leaves, yellow flowers and feathery seeds. The ball-shaped lettuce of today is a derivitive species (Lactuca sativa).
Sacred to : Aphrodite (the plant was associated with impotency)
Mythology : Death of Adonis. Adonis was a handsome youth loved by the goddess Aphrodite. He was slain by a wild boar in a bed of lettuce, or was laid out amongst the plants by the goddess following his death. The lettuce was therefore regarded as the plant of the death of love, and so of impotency. Others say that the baby Adonis was hidden in a lettuce bed by the goddess following his birth from the trunk of the tree Myrrha. (Source: Athenaeus)