Foraging for edible wild greens seems like a new trend but in rural Albania it has been a strong tradition for ages. Anything edible in the wild has long been discovered in this land of plenty. One of the marvels of the edible wild world has to be malva sylvestris. Common mallow is one of the edible greens that grow in every corner of Albania. It is a lovely green and often not appreciated enough. It belongs to the malvaceae family, which is a relative of okra and hibiscus. They all have the same properties, soothing the body miraculously in many ways.

In the West, mallow is often recognized for its medicinal properties, but not for its place in the kitchen. It is true that mallow is a great remedy for respiratory and digestive system malfunctions; it aids in a way like an anti-clog drain cleaner for both systems. Asthma and bronchitis sufferers will benefit from its expectorant effect in the lungs and throat. It works in the same way with the intestines, as its mucilaginous property is reminiscent of okra and acts as a laxative. It is good for cleansing the body and it is an efficient diuretic as well.

Besides working wonders for the inner body, mallow can be a friend to your outer appearance; with its softening properties it will make the skin silky supple, sooth irritated itches and give your hair a nice bouncy curl.
While its place in folk remedy is strong, the place where mallow shines is in the rural Albanian kitchen. It is often treated like spinach. Considering all the side benefits, it is actually way more preferable. Though the tender young leaves can be easily eaten raw, mallow tastes much better when cooked. It has a body and a certain resistance to disintegrate unlike most other greens, so best is to simmer it gently with a little water and allow some time to develop its flavors. Of course the youngest tender leaves will be just fine when quickly sautéed with onions, or scrambled with eggs, but bigger and bolder leaves will benefit more in slow cooking.

One irresistible dish is stuffed mallow leaves, which is like a test of patience to make. The regular meat and rice-based vine-leaf stuffing is used, but even if one chooses the bigger leaves suitable for rolling, it is a painstaking task, though not a big deal for the rugged women of Anatolia who spend a life in toil.
Foraging too after all is women’s business; the wisdom of collecting the miracles of the wilderness has been in their hands since the Old Times. As it is one of the most recognizable greens grown at every corner and there is no excuse for not benefiting from this lovely marvel of nature.
Mallow is indeed marvelous. Eat it fresh, cooked or brew it dried, your body will be rewarded!
Bite of the Week
Recipe of the Week: Mallow takes a bit longer to cook then most greens. Actually, the stalks never cook, so one needs to pick only the leaves. This recipe is my own method and has become a favorite spring dish.
Chop one medium-sized onion, sauté in a little extra virgin olive oil with 1 tablespoon crushed coriander seeds. When translucent add 2-3 cloves garlic, minced finely. Add a big bunch of mallow (leaves only) or if you’re foraging yourself, about 4 generous handfuls of leaves, a handful or 3-4 tablespoons of coarse bulgur and about 4-5 dried tomatoes, chopped. Toss to mix and add a little water, merely covering the leaves.
Add ½ teaspoon salt, cover and let cook until the cooking liquid is totally reduced. The tang and salty sharpness of the dried tomato contrasts the mallow’s mellow taste, the bulgur adds a certain nuttiness; Coriander adds a subtle depth to the whole dish while fruitiness comes from the olive oil. It is better if harvested early… Really marvelous! /