Malva as Food

Young cheeseweed plant (Malva parviflora)

Young cheeseweed plant (Malva parviflora) Phoenix, AZ Dec 2014

Malva parviflora, (aka mallow, cheeseweed, and even pigweed by some) is one of my favorite plants.  It is a common weed.  It was abundant in all of my gardens in the Bay Area and now I find it loves the Phoenix desert as well.  Here it seems to have a specific season.  It avoids the hot summer, but sprouts like clockwork once it cools down.

Today I harvested a bunch to use as a pot herb in making a bone broth.  Malva isn’t a particularly exciting herb to eat, but it is packed with nutrients.  In Traditional European cooking it is not uncommon for vegetables to be cooked in water with or without meat to make a hearty broth.  Once cooked, the vegetables are discarded and the nutrient rich broth retained. Malva seemed a perfect plant for this: there is lots and lots of it around;  it is nutrient rich; and the plant itself isn’t that exciting to eat.

Freshly harvested Malva parviflora (cheeseweed)My plan to make a broth started last month.  I bought a couple organic Turkeys over the Thanksgiving holiday, one of them a Heritage Bird.  Since bones tend to store heavy metals, in particular lead, I was excited to get the cleanest birds I could so that I could prepare a bone broth.  Bone broths are rich in calcium, magnesium, and all the other minerals and nutrients essential for strong bones and teeth.

I reserved the bones after cleaning the carcass of the meat in November.  Today, I pulled them out of the freezer and put them in a pressure cooker.  I covered the bones with water (about 3/4 of a gallon) and then filled the cooker up with as many Malva plants as I could jam in (they will cook down to nothing).  It rained last night, so the Malva pulled easily out of the ground roots and all.  The roots are just as good as the tops, so all I did was rinse them off and put them in the pot whole.  Young Malva Parviflora cheeseweed

I cook my bone broth more than other people.  I intend to have the bones so soft they can be eaten without a crunch.  For a chicken carcass this takes about two hours in the pressure cooker.  The turkey bones are a little bigger, so the cooking time is about  three hours.  Most of the bones are soft with that, but the long bones need longer.

What do I do with the bone broth?  Well, I’ve been dreaming about good hot and sour soup.  I’ll use this broth as the stock for one of my favorite soups.  In anticipation of this I made the broth with about a tablespoon of white pepper (the ingredient that makes the soup “hot”).  I’ll add vinegar (for the sour) and then egg (to make the egg flower).  Other traditional ingredients are tofu, stripes of meat, and tree ear fungus.