Heemstwortel-afkooksel (Althaea officinalis)
If you think you can get the sticks and firepit ready you’ll be fairly disappointed. But the marshmallow plant is still pretty impressive as its root produces a soothing mucilage that helps soften and protect the skin.
Marshmallow is a perennial plant from the Malvaceae family, native to Europe and North Africa. It grows in salt marshes, by the sea and along riverbanks. The plant has heart-shaped, velvety leaves with pinkish flowers.
The whole plant contains a lubricating mucilage - a thick, gluey substance which is particularly concentrated in the root. The fresh root of the marshmallow plant can be directly applied to sore or chapped skin to calm inflammation and irritation. It can also be dried and turned into a powder, which creates a runny, gel-like consistency when added to warm water.
Its botanical name, Althaea, comes from the ancient Greek ‘althainein’, which means ‘to heal’. The root was used in Egyptian antiquity in a honey-sweetened confection, which was supposed to calm a sore throat. The later French version of the recipe, called ‘guimauve’ (the French word for ‘marshmallow’), included an egg white meringue and was often flavoured with rose water. As you’ve probably guessed, la guimauve is the ancestor of the fluffy and squishy confection we all know today, although ironically its modern version no longer contains marshmallow.