Marshmallows do grow, just not on tree or bush

By LEE REICH Modified: October 12, 2009 at 6:08 am •  Published: October 12, 2009
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With harvest season winding down, it's time for dessert. How about some candy from the garden?

Marshmallows, anyone?

Of course, you can't just pluck a squishy marshmallow from a marshmallow bush or tree. But marshmallows originally were made from the candied roots of a plant. And that plant is aptly called marsh mallow.

Digging up marshmallows

You can grow marsh mallow, and if you do, now would be a good time to dig up a few pieces of root, candy them and compare them with the fluffy product sold under the same name in plastic bags.

Those bagged marshmallows, incidentally, are no longer made from marsh mallow roots. They are made from a mixture of sugars, egg whites and gelatin beaten together.

As you scratch into the soil at the base of a marsh mallow plant, the resemblance of marsh mallow roots to marshmallow candy becomes apparent. It doesn't take long for a plant to develop fat white roots. After only a couple of years, roots might get as fat as � inches in diameter, radiating out just below the soil surface.

You can chop off a couple of these roots, take them to the kitchen, scrape them clean, then slice them into rounds the size of miniature marshmallows. Back in the garden, the plant hardly knows it's had a few roots removed.

Candy time

The candying process, described in various old cookbooks for things such as citron peels and angelica roots, works well for marsh mallow roots. The process begins with boiling the root pieces to soften them. This step takes about 30 minutes.

The next step is to pour off the water and cover the marshmallows-to-be with a syrup made by heating a mixture of two parts sugar to one part water. Homemade marshmallows do rival the commercial ones for sweetness.