After a weekend filled with chocolate and Valentine’s Day treats, I felt the need to go on a sugar detox for a couple of days. This usually consists of tons of water, raw fruits, tons of water, raw veggies and did I mention tons of water? So to get full detoxification benefits I thought I’d throw in some herbs that aid in the flushing of toxins. On my quest to hunt down the most purifying herbs I came across a couple that I already use including hibiscus flowers and licorice. However there was one herb that caught my attention: marsh mallow root. The first thing that came to mind was that fluffy confection you sandwich between graham crackers and a chunk of chocolate but to my surprise there are a whole host of health benefits associated with the sticky herb. I did some research and found out some very interesting facts about the marsh mallow plant and the sugary creation that is named after it.
Marsh mallow is a plant indigenous to Europe and Asia and was used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans for medicinal purposes. It is abundant in marshes and other damp areas. It was used to treat wounds and alleviate coughs. 19th century doctors would create a formula with extracted juice from the marsh mallow plant, egg whites and sugar that when hardened was used as a medicinal candy to soothe a child’s sore throat. The beneficial elements of the concoction also included suppressing coughs and boosting immunity.
The earliest known marshmallow candy confection dates back to the Ancient Egyptians. It was a honey-based candy flavored and thickened with sap from the root of the marsh mallow plant. This sweet treat was reserved for gods and royalty. The first modern marshmallows were made in the 1800s in France where sap from the marsh mallow root was used as a binding agent for egg whites, corn syrup and water. The confection was both time consuming and expensive to make. But by the 1900s marshmallows were available for mass consumption and sold in tin cans as penny candy and marsh mallow root was replaced by gelatin which gave the candy a more stable form. With a few tweaks here and there, the marshmallow as we know it today was created.
What started out with a plant used as a healer morphed into a treat reserved for the upper echelon then trickled down to penny candy. The ultimate revolution of the marshmallow is celebrated as a loyal companion to hot chocolate, camp fires and Rice Krispies. Marshmallows have even tip-toed their way into elegant dishes, cupcake frosting and creamy marshmallow fluff is a favored mate to a peanut butter sandwich, Elvis-style.
Learn to make your own marshmallows with this quick and simple recipe from Food Network and for fabulous recipes and snack ideas using marshmallows check out Kraft Foods.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Flickr, Kraft Foods