Manna from the Mellow Land
Jules has just completed her seasonal year of the Sensory Herbal Apprenticeship. She is a total inspiration, planting and re-wooding acres of land in Wales. She is both magical and practical and we are thrilled to share with you her journey with Marshmallow…
Jules is a practising Hedgewitch who works with the spirit medicine of wild plants. In 2010 she left her job as a Social Worker to return to her Romani roots. She now runs creative wild plant workshops and is the guardian of 5000 trees and 7 acres of sacred land on Ynys Mon, North Wales. Jules is also an author and regularly writes articles about wild food, veganism and the conservation of wild spaces. Her first book “The Little Hedgewitch” teaches children about the importance of hedgerow preservation ☺
It’s autumn and I am attending the first weekend of my Sensory Herbal Apprenticeship. We are sat in a circle; there are candles and a faint smell of sage lingering in the air. There are cards placed on the floor faced down “please choose a plant” we were asked.
As my eyes fixed on the cards, my gaze softened and immediately a card to my left started to quiver as if a small breeze was caught underneath it. A whisper of “yes pick me” entered my curiosity and without further hesitation, I picked up the card. As I slowly turned it over, my heart fluttered and a warm fuzzy feeling encircled me as the plant Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) was revealed.
I first fell in love with the Mallow family when I moved to the magical Isle of Anglesey in 2010. The giant Tree Mallow grows abundantly here and she is known to the locals by her Latin name Lavatera. This mysterious plant caught my eye immediately as I drove along the coastal roads exploring my new home. I can remember pulling over in my camper van and standing next to her, looking up in awe at this simply magnificent plant that can grow up to nine feet tall. To me she is the Enchantress in the tarot deck with her large maple shaped leaves tempting us to stroke her soft downyness. Her exquisite pink and mauve flowers with dark purple veins radiating from her centre could cast a love spell on anyone wanting to dance with her!
In 2016 I travelled to mainland Greece to volunteer at a community and noticed that Mallow was growing everywhere; I was in Mallow heaven! Mallows were growing next to the compost bins, in the flower beds, next to the washing lines, in the cracks in the walls and much to the disgust of some, in the veg patches.
Being a woman who speaks from the heart (especially when it comes to plants) I spoke joyfully and enthusiastically at the profusion of mallow plants growing there. A couple of the plant loving sisters shared this love too but the rest of the members saw them only as a hindrance, referring to them as “an invasive weed”? Tensions were running high in that community and I found myself sitting with a Mallow plant one night and subconsciously asking for assistance. The next day I started to recognise some of my own demons reflected within the community and by doing so, was able to empathise and wanted to help. So with an abundance of Mallow, I got to work. I started to serve up Mallow leaf tea, putting the fresh leaves and flowers into salads, added the fruits (known as cheese wheels) to breakfast cereals and desserts. On hot days when members became thirsty whilst working the veg patches, I suggested they chew the leaves from the plants growing close by as this could help to retain moisture in the mouth. In addition, a lotion was made to heal sun damaged skin and I experimented with making shampoo too.
It is clear to see that Mallow was there to offer her nourishment not only in the edible and medicinal sense but also helpful in softening rigid mental thought patterns…something I also have difficulty with! When departing the community, I suggested that they might want to sit with the Mallow and discover the deeper side to her lovely healing benefits and maybe she could help sooth some of the tensions as well!
When I returned home, I brought with me some of those seeds collected from the community, the towns and coastal areas that I visited. The few that did geminate, settled well amongst their Welsh cousins and hold within them, the preserved memory of the healing and lessons I received from the community and the sacred Mallow plants living there.
Since being gifted the Marshmallow plants as a plant ally, I have grown several plants. This has allowed me to really get to know her and dance on a more intimate level. However, it wasn’t until a few months later during a blind tea tasting activity in winter, did I get to sample her medicine.
At the time, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety but the soothing undertones of Liquorice and Anise coupled with a hint of celery smelt amazing. A calming feeling rippled through my body and then, as if like magic, I felt something sit behind my eyes. I can remember asking out loud what I was drinking because it was having such an amazing effect on me. All the edges in the room started to softened, I felt warm and supported, like being held in a cotton wool hug. I then started to sigh out heavily and emotions of deep held grief in my heart dissipated. The memory of Greek Mallows drifted in to join the party and then a whispering in my ear “soften your edges lovely, soften, soften, soften”. Almost immediately we were then told we were drinking Marshmallow root and I can remember feeling so blessed that I was making such a wonderful connection.
Following my herbal weekend, I was excited to dig and dry my own roots for tea and as we were experiencing a mild winter, I saw that the root was already sending out tiny shoots. These were promptly potted up to increase my Marshmallow family. This I felt, would also be the perfect opportunity to observe her growing cycle and indeed, the spirit medicine of her loveliness.
From observation, those babies were very strong and even though they had no roots they quickly grew into strong plants. In addition, the leftover root ball that was dug for tea was also potted up and has grown back into a strong healthy plant too. This serves as a reminder of how resilient Marshmallow is.
Other ways I received inspiration from the Marshmallow was to dry the leaves and use for smudging in my home. Placing leaves under my pillow also gave me some interesting dreams, one being that the Mallow was giving me instruction to use Cleavers for lymphatic cleansing. Moreover, since my astrological sign is Cancer and finding that Marshmallow holds the feminine vibration of water and connected to the moon, this prompted me to look at my own constitution and how the elements may affect me.
As long as I can remember, I have always had dry skin and since shifting through the menopause it has got worst. The most wonderful learning experience during my sensory herbal training was finding out about the moistening effect that Marshmallow has on the mucous membranes and how this could support the dryness/deficiency in my body.
As a Hedgewitch, I delight in creating healthy edible treats from the wild seasonal larder on my door step. However finding a healthy treat using Marshmallow root or leaf is quite a challenge. Online searches gave me pictures of cosy campfires with happy families toasting squishy pink and white cubes named Marshmallows. As for the recipes, a shed load of sugar is required including egg white and gelatine…as a vegan and trainee herbalist, I came to the conclusion that this not good muti! The original Marshmallow confectionary that was used for sore throats was simply made from a mixture of sliced roots and a little sugar boiled together. A jelly was also made from the powdered roots, water and sugar.
After much searching and a soupçon of wild alchemy, I found a recipe that I could adapt using my home grown roots and more importantly, it doesn’t contain any dead animals products or a shed load of sugar ☺
2 cups of desiccated organic coconut
2 TB of dried Marshmallow Root ground to a powder.
4TB of homemade Dandelion honey (loads of recipes on the internet) or sweetener of your choice.
8 Tb Organic coconut oil
Pinch of Celtic sea salt
Process coconut until grainy in texture. NB using coconut flour doesn’t work.
Add the rest of the ingredients until well combined and dough like
Spoon out a good tsp full of the dough and shape into cubes or balls.
Place on greaseproof paper and refrigerate until needed. For extra decadence, melt vegan chocolate and drizzle over the top.
These can be kept in the freezer or fridge until needed.
These little treats will definitely soften your edges when needed!