Marsh mallow plants (Althaea officinalis) are quick to grow, however the roots take a bit longer before they are ready to harvest. The plants are known to attract butterflies and have a long history of culinary and health uses.
The name Althaea comes from the Latin word "althaea," meaning "I cure." Marsh mallow root has been harvested for its soothing properties since ancient times. Additionally, the first marshmallow was originally made from marsh mallow root that was dried and powdered then mixed with water and sugar to create a sweet candy.
Plant marsh mallow seeds in early autumn and allow them to grow until spring. After the plants flower, cut them back by half. Once the plants are established, the roots need to grow for two years before they are ready for harvesting. After the second spring, the roots are ready to harvest in late fall. The total time from seed planting to root harvest is approximately 2 1/2 to 3 years.
In Middle Eastern dishes, the dried marsh mallow roots are boiled then fried with butter and onions; they can also be made into syrup. Root decoctions are often used to relieve coughs, bronchitis, sore throat, indigestion and insomnia. Dried roots have traditionally been given to teething babies to help soothe their gums.