Marshmallows don’t grow on trees, but they started as a result of this bush-like plant that closely resembles a hibiscus. These plants are common along the sides of the roads of Florida in the Summer, and are overlooked by us modern Floridians as simply another tropical element of our landscape. In another time however, these plants and their worldwide relatives were prized for their abilities to help cure diseases and later, to create culinary delights.
The original marshmallow treat was not a treat at all, but a medicinal treatment made of the marshmallows sap, used to ease children’s sore throats and coughs (1). Apparently, they tasted pretty good, and the jump from medicine to food occurred. While marshmallows continued to be made from sap well into the late 1800’s, it wasn’t very long until both a sugary and gelatinous substitute were used for making the confections we all know and love today. These substitutes allowed producers to skip the boiling and sap collecting, and removed the need for the plant altogether. Although commercial Marshmallows may somewhat resemble their predecessors in texture and taste, they no longer have any kind of medicinal value.
For more information on the Marshmallow plants medicinal properties and usages visit this site: http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mallow07.html