Mallow - Malva neglecta

Mallow - Malva neglecta

The King and His Maps

Neglecta is Latin for neglected. Neglected means to “to pay no attention or too little attention to.” Which in turn means, to place your attention on something else. Perhaps Mallow was given this name because it thrives in neglected areas, or perhaps as we like to think, because we have passed by this plant a thousand times, and never paid attention to it, always busy with someting else and never taking the time to learn from it. Mallow brings to mind a story we came across called 'The King and His Maps.'

One day a student carrying a heavy load of books came upon a wise teacher and asked, "Tell me teacher, what are the greatest books concerning God?” After some thought, the teacher invited the student to sit down and began telling a story.

“There once lived a young prince who would one day inherit the entire kingdom. As a boy he would wander and play throughout the many territories. He would climb trees in the forest and eat their delectable nuts and fruits. He would sit around the fire with his family and friends, telling stories and gazing at the stars. He would roll down hills, swim in the streams, and jump on the rocks.

As the boy grew, the day came when he was brought indoors to be trained. He learned the alphabet, how to read and write, how to reason and define, and how to conceptualize. Remembering the fondness of his childhood, he became obsessed with using his newfound knowledge to make a perfect map of all his territories.

Day and night he created maps, and then he divided these maps in order to make more detailed maps. Still feeling that his maps were incomplete he divided these maps in order to capture even more detail. Still not satisfied, he went and hired the best map makers in the world. Over time his entire palace filled up with so many maps that the light was no longer able to shine through the palace windows.

One night, surrounded by candles and maps, the king fell into a deep sleep. In his sleep he asked the dream to show him the most perfect map. To his surprise he saw before him a tattered map that contained a childish drawing of his palace. In the middle of the map was an arrow that pointed to an open door which led to the territories where he used to play as a child. In that moment he understood.

Upon awakening, the king climbed over and pushed through his many maps, knocking down several candles as he went. A great fire spread through the palace destroying everything in its path. Though the search continued for months, the body of the king was never found.

It is said among the villagers that if you go to the hills, if you climb the trees, if you eat the wild fruits, if you sit around the fires, and if you swim in the streams, that you can often hear the jolly king laughing while he plays.”

The teacher turned and pointed to the door. The student let go of the heavy load and was never seen by the teacher again.

It is an easy thing to fall into the endless traps of obsessive repetition, trying to fill a void with something that we know is just within our reach, but have somehow forgotten something along the way. Minds constantly thinking, if only I work a little harder, if only I can learn just a little bit more, if only I had a little more money, if only, if only... To let go of the if only, and to sit with and notice what was once neglected, will inevitable push us through to a new reality where we realize how even a little plant can be such a wonderful teacher in the lessons of remembering. And this teacher has much to offer. It not only provides good tasting greens, but its little wheel shaped seeds are delicious, and quite nutritious. The seed is said to contain up to 21% protein and up to 12% fat. Dwarf Mallow also appears to have quite a long history of being used medicinally.


The leaves and seeds are said to be edible, and we have greatly enjoyed the many diverse uses of these leaves. The young leaves are great in salads raw, but the leaves are also mucilaginous, which means they can thicken up things like soups and stews, and even can be used to add a nice thickness to smoothies.

Though they take some time to pick, the seeds are an absolute delight to eat, a convenient fast food right off the plant that has a wonderful nutty pea like taste. Even our kids enjoy picking and eating the seeds, as it is not unusual to find them hovering around this plant.


We use the leaves in salads, sandwiches, and especially in soups and stews. The seeds we also add to salads, or simply just eat them straight off the plant. Though what is really fun is to show the kids all the wonderful things that can be done with this plant. Here is a summary of one example from the book Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas:

Mallow Whipping Cream

You will need one cup of picked Mallow fruits (the nut/pea like seed) and a pot with 3 cups water. Bring water to a rapid boil and add peas, then boil till contents reduce down and you can see that the water is getting thick. Then pour into a strainer to remove what is left of the peas. Cool to room temperature then in a separate container whip up 1 egg white till it starts to hold air, then add in ¼ cream of tartar and slowly add ½ cup mallow whites as you keep whipping. Then slowly add ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. When you reach the desired consistency you have a new way to make whipped cream.