NAME: MALLOW (Malva neglecta and M. parviflora)
Mallow is an urban plant that’s widely regarded as a weed. It’s one of the most common wild plants found in vacant lots, disturbed soils and even cracks in the cement in an alley.
Mallow leaves are roundish in outline and are palmately divided into seven to 11 shallow lobes, with a margin of small teeth. Where the longleaf stem meets the base of the leaf blade, you’ll notice a red spot on the upper surface of the leaf. The leaves are alternate and almost hairless. The flowers are arranged in close axillary clusters along the branches.
The floral parts include five sepals, five rose-colored petals about 1/8 inch long, numerous stamens and one pistil. Flat, circular fruits develop from the flowers. When ripe, these ¼-inch green fruits split into up to a dozen nutlets that resemble packaged cheese; thus, its common name: cheeseweed.
Mallow has naturalized here from Europe. It’s almost always found around the disturbed soils of urban areas and tends to be absent from wilderness areas. Look for this plant in vacant lots and waste areas.
Mallow is one of the most common urban wild plants. This spreading and highly branched annual grows to about 3 feet tall on average and is seen as mounds of green in open lots.
Mallow leaves are edible raw in salads, and they impart a slightly mucilaginous texture. The leaves are commonly cooked and eaten like spinach; they can also be added to soup. Because they’re tough, I often remove the stems first, although they can be chopped fine and added to soups.
The large leaves of the mallow have sometimes been used as a replacement for grape leaves in the popular Middle Eastern “stuffed grape leaf,” which is rice and meat rolled into a grape leaf. You can also try sautéing the individual leaf, making it a “mallow chip.”
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