Tonight’s pizza ingredients found on a random forage in the garden: 3 different day lily species flower buds, including the first yellow Hemerocallis altissima, H. citrina (in the middle) with Malva moschata and M. alcea, second flush nettles, Campanula trachelium (new leaves after cutting down), Sonchus oleraceus (common sow thistle) and broad beans, with shallots, garlic, chili, oregano and topped with the year’s first poppy seed!
Malva alcea (greater musk-mallow, cut-leaved mallow, vervain mallow or hollyhock mallow / Norw: rosekattost) is a mallow native to southwestern, central and eastern Europe and southwestern Asia, from Spain north to southern Sweden and east to Russia and Turkey. It is easy to confuse with musk mallow (Malva moschata). It is a much larger plant than moschata. My plant is the upright form Malva alcea var. fastigiata and reaches 1.8m, double the height of moschata. I had this for many years, but it was sterile and I suspected it was a hybrid with moschata. It finally died after some 15 years and I sourced new seed through the Scottish Rock Gardening Club seed list in winter 2012-2013. It grew quickly, produced seed and has self-sowed in a few places in the garden, growing well in the half shady conditions my garden provides for. Here it is, filmed from my balcony today:
This summer, I’ve been using this mallow much more than before as I now have a lot of it and it has replaced moschata in a few places, suggesting that these may be hybrids! This really is one of the most useful perennial vegetables in the summer garden. Along with other mallows you can pick off leaves, young flower buds and flowers over an extended period! I use them in various stir-fry dishes, in soups, on pizza, in quiches and mixed salads!
It is surprisingly not often mentioned as edible in ethnobotanical studies (maybe underreported due to confusion with moschata?). However, a quick search revealed it being used traditionally in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria!
If I had written my book today, this may well have replaced moschata. I did mention alcea in the book under the account of moschata as follows:
I have less experience with Malva alcea, greater musk mallow, which is, as the English name suggests, a larger plant. It has a similar range to musk mallow, except that it isn’t found in the UK. I’ve only grown the form ‘Fastigiata’ which is long-lived and a nice ornamental, needing staking up during the summer. My plant was sterile and is thought possibly to be a hybrid between M. alcea and M. moschata. The flowers are also good in salads.
Bees love it too!
Here are a few pictures of it in the garden today:
It’s a rare event that I forage outside the garden at this time of year and almost never for leafy greens. I’m trying to find time at least once a week for a walk in the woods and at the weekend I did just that and I was surprised to find that the alpine bistort (viviparous knotweed / harerug) bulbils were ready to harvest. It often grows in large quantities along tracks in sunny spots on the edge of the forest.
We had a perennial veggie quiche for dinner and these were used as as a tasty nutty topping. The vegetables we used included sorrel (Rumex acetosa / engsyre), musk mallow (Malva moschata / moskuskattost), day lily flowers (Hemerocallis / daglilje), various onions (løk), Hablitzia leaves and Hosta.
I eat wild fish now and again, but there’s always masses of veggies….and today musk mallow (Malva moschata) is at its most productive, with various Russians sorrels, day lily buds and nettles. Also not shown, I used Croatian St. John’s onion (Allium x cornutum), garlic “Aleksandra” (still going strong, stored in my kitchen since autumn), chili and golpar (spice from the seed of Heracleum persicum, Tromsøpalme)
I gave myself a little treat this week and made Indian pakora! Pakora are basically fried vegetable fritters, often sold as a starter in Indian restaurants. The vegetables were dipped in a batter made of gram (chick pea) flour, a little chili and garam masala spice. It would be interesting to use broad bean (fava) flour instead of chick peas!
I used: Day lily buds (Hemerocallis), common sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), radish, red mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea), musk mallow (Malva moschata), Korean aster (Aster scaber), sorrel (Rumex acetosa), garden orach (Atriplex hortensis), Parsley pea (tops), Allium nutans x senescens (leaves and flower stems/buds) and Hablitzia tamnoides (tops)…..