Dec 172009

Edible weeds are popping up all over Israel now. Nettles, young plantain leaves, sow thistle, milk thistle, chickweed, and mallows are just a few of them. Earlier this week I explored an empty lot close by, and found a huge quantity of mallows among the wild foods. Some of the leaves were big enough to stuff, like vine leaves.

Before I go on to the recipe, let me tell you about mallows. They grow all over the Mediterranean, North Africa, Europe, and parts of the U.S and Central America. I don’t know if they grow in South America, Australia/New Zealand or the Far East – but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. I can tell you though, that once they take hold, they will cover an area.

Mallows are related to okra, hollyhocks, and hibiscus – all edible and medicinal plants. I like to harvest the small young leaves to eat raw in salads, and the big leaves for stuffing. Sometimes I’ll just chop up a big bunch and make soup from them, or stir them into a stew, or into rice, as I do with nettles. I wrote an article about mallows for Henriette Kress’s Herbal Homepage, which you can see here. It includes a recipe for mallows soup.

And every year, I hang bunches of them upside down by their stalks, to dry for cooking when they’re out of season. If you store them in a glass jar, away from light, the leaves will last a year. If I need a soup in a hurry and don’t have much in the fridge, I just reach into my jar of dried mallows (or nettles) and crumble some into the pot, adding instant flavor and nutrition to the food.

I love the striped pink flowers of our native variety, Malva Sylvestris. If I find myself in a field of flowering mallows during one of my foraging walks, I pick as many blooms as I can, to dry for a medicinal tea. This tea soothes the respiratory system and helps to control cough.

You can read much more about the edible and medicinal properties of mallows in the awesome Plants for a Future site. That page doesn’t mention that the mallow roots are edible and medicinal too – so if you happen to uproot a few when you’re out gathering, just scrub them clean, cut the stalk away, and chuck them into soup too.

For stuffing, pick big leaves, at least as big as your outstretched hand. Small leaves are too fiddly to work with.

Check each leaf carefully. Discard any that have lots of little holes in them, or orange spots indicating insect activity. Or other  mallow eaters, like this little guy:

See the rusty orange spots around the Fuzzy One? Discard any leaves with that.

The recipe assumes that you have about 20 large, washed mallow leaves. It’s better to have a few extra because they are tender and some will inevitably rip. Snip off any stalk bits to make rolling them up easy. Keep the leaves shiny side down.

Now for the recipe itself.

Stuffed Mallow Leaves

yield: 20 stuffed leaves

printed version here


20 large, clean mallow leaves

1 cup of  rice cooked in salted water

1/2  cup pine nuts

1 large tomato, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 small onion, chopped fine

2 Tablespoons diced fresh mint or crumbled dried mint

juice and zest of one lemon

2 Tablespoons chopped parsley or celery leaves

1 tsp. salt


2 large tomatoes, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole

1 teaspoon sugar

2/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup water


1. Mix together the rice, pine nuts, chopped tomato, crushed garlic, chopped onion, mint, lemon zest, parsley, salt, and pepper to taste.

2. Line the pot with the sliced tomatoes. This adds flavor and keeps the stuffed leaves from scorching.


3. Mix the olive oil, water, sugar, and  lemon juice in a bowl. Set aside.

4. Fill and roll the leaves.

Keep the shiny sides down, stem part towards you.

Just where you snipped the stem off, there is a long, horizontal wrinkle in the leaf (see 2 photos up, the one with the scissors). Put a teaspoon of filling, in a long strip, just above that wrinkle.

Roll the filled edge up once. Fold the sides of the leave over it.

Roll again, making a neat little package. Secure the edge with a toothpick.

I wish I had more and better photos to show the filling process, but I would have needed three hands to do it.

5. Place the stuffed leaves on top of the sliced tomatoes in the pan, stem sides down. Place the whole garlic cloves here and there among them. The following photo shows  a bell pepper in the pot with the mallow – because I wanted to use up leftover stuffing. The flavor of the pepper didn’t hurt the stuffed leaves at all.

6. Pour the oil/water mix over the the contents of the pot. Place a small plate, or a pot lid that fits,  inside the pot to prevent the leaves from unrolling as they cook. Cover the pot with its own lid. Simmer over low flame for 45 minutes. Mallow leaves are tender and release a beneficial mucilage (goopy liquid), so there will be plenty of liquid in the pot. They don’t need to cook as long as vine leaves, which need an hour or more.

7. Allow the leaves to cool down entirely before you remove them from the pan. Serve them cold.

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  28 Responses to “Stuffed Mallows, An Edible Weed”

  1. I love mallow hubeiza but usually only ffy it with onion and add some lemon juice in the end. I never thought of stuffing it.I should take a bag with me next time I take the dog out as we pass a place which has lots of mallow growing just now.I love this season when all the green things pop out but only know mallow and nettle.As for the others you mentioned , could you take a picture of them once you see them`?

  2. Yaelian, I usually keep a bag in my purse at this season. You never know when something wonderful will be growing underfoot. Yesterday I was surprised to see lots of wild marigolds in the empty lot near my building. They make antiseptic and soothing teas which I use in facial treatments and lotions. The yellow petals are edible as they are and lend mild yellow color to rice. I’d better stop writing about wild greens, I can keep going till you fall asleep…

    A little warning: pick your mallows in places where dogs don’t do their business.

    And yes, I’ll be posting more photos of edible weeds as I pick and cook them.

  3. They were delicious. I could have eaten the whole pot full. I am going to have to go foraging with you sometime so I can learn what to pick. I am always afraid I am going to pick something poisonous.

  4. I just discovered your beautiful blog, and I’m so glad I did! I’m so excited, as I do think I’ve seen these leaves in the states! I’m going to print out some photos and explore when the weather warms up a bit here… The stuffed mallows sound gorgeous, as does your mallow soup! Thank you for the beautiful recipes and for the info about a plant that’s new to me!

  5. This was awesome! Using the mallow leaves as a dolma is really nice. I loved this blog post. Thanks for sharing.

  6. You’re very right not to eat anything you can’t identify 100%, Baroness. There are poisonous look-alikes for plants that are edible and medicinal. And I’m glad you like the mallows!

  7. Chava, mallows do grow everywhere. If this coming springtime will be your first time picking them, wait till they’re flowering, so you can compare the flowers to a photograph in a good source and know for sure that’s what they are. Or ask someone knowledgeable in your neighborhood.

  8. Velva, thank you for the good word. Here in the Middle East folks stuff all kinds of leaves, not just vine!

  9. Thank you so much for posting this. It looks like I have mallow growing in my backyard so I’m going to pick several of the leaves and add it to the soup I made on Shabbat. I’ll make sure my husband eats it because he says he’s coming down with a cough/cold.

    When do the flowers show up? Also, lately I’ve been freezing ‘herb cubes’ when I buy herbs in bunches and only need a little, I’ll wash and chop the entire bunch and freeze it in an ice cube tray. Do you think it would work for the mallow leaves as well?

  10. what a good recipe, last year I stuffed mallow leaves, a few days ago I made an omelette with it. I prefer them stuffed
    as the mallows themselves have a very subtle taste, your recipe is zesty and full of herbs perfect for stuffing.
    What is the origin of this recipe? or is it something that you put together?

  11. what a good recipe, last year I stuffed mallow leaves, a few days ago I made an omelette with it. I prefer them stuffed
    as the mallows themselves have a very subtle taste, your recipe is zesty and full of herbs perfect for stuffing.
    What is the origin of this recipe? or is it something that you put together?

  12. Hi Mimi! I linked here from my humble malva omelette post.
    I will sure try your recipe soon!

  13. Your malva omelet made me hungry, S.! And the photos of the cyclamens under that post are gorgeous.

  14. Did you see that I also made stuffed cyclamen leaves, two posts below?
    They came out delicious! But it was hard to find big cyclamen leaves and I had to climb on a mountain to an off to beaten path location, because the plant is protected and of course I am not picking them beside any paths and such. I also didn’t rip whole plants off their leaves but took from here and there. It took time! Wow, I am lucky that I don’t have to go to such efforts to find daily food… :-)

  15. S., yes I did see that you had stuffed cyclamen leaves. Did you pre-boil them before stuffing?

    I have a big cyclamen root in a window box that puts out lot of leaves and pale pink flowers every winter. Today I was looking at it and wondering if I should consider it a food crop, like my sage or rosemary. Maybe I’ll plant another couple of them and see if the fit takes me next year.

    I’m amazed at the effort you went to. What’s the taste of the leaves?

  16. Yes, I preboiled the leaves for few minutes. This must be done, otherwise they are poisonous. They are easy to fill and fold once they are cooked.
    Well, it was not such a big effort as it sounds as I walk in the nature alot anyway. Just had to make detours to find good leaves, but it was fun.
    The taste of the leaves is fantastic! Even better than stuffed wineleaves which I love too.

  17. The leaves on my clyclamen are so small, it wouldn’t be worth the bother. But I’m interested in trying it anyway…maybe I’ll snip off one or two, preboil, and then stir-fry them to see what they taste like.

  18. What a lovely idea to use my mallow-leaves instead of wineleaves. Another taste but very delicious.
    I am using some slices of own lemons to cover the rolls.
    Thanks for that Website.

  19. Barbara, your own lemons…I envy you!

  20. […] Woodward and Pam Vardy, has an Egyptian recipe for a mallow soup called Khobaza. Likewise, the Israeli Kitchen blog offers a recipe for making stuffed Mallow leaves, or what we might know as […]

  21. I have seen translations of the Egyptian Melloukhia leaves as mallow, and they also have that same goopy liquid. Is that what these were or are the ones you picked a different kind of mallow?

  22. Faye, melloukhia are a sort of mallow, but the leaves are much longer and their flavor is more pronounced. Also they’re much goopier when cooked.

  23. Hi Mimi.

    Glad I stumbled upon this.
    Been living in IL for a few years and whenever I see this plant ( mallow) it reminds me of a weed that that the indigenous people in South Africa eat. The lady who used to work for us used to call it Zulu spinach :)

    I’m going to try and find out if it is the same plant ….. if not I will post what it is .

  24. Hi, Simon. I’ll be glad to know more about “Zulu spinach.” As far as I know, mallows grow on all the continents, so your weed may very well be them.

  25. […] Stuffed Mallows at Israeli Kitchen […]

  26. Mate, they definitely grow in Australia, my backyard is full of it! I think i have pulled out 1000 stems already!

  27. Claire, it’s a free vegetable. Why not make mallows soup? Mallows are packed with nutrition – they have more Vitamin C, by weight, than oranges do. And plenty of iron. You can dress them up with onions and any seasonings you like. Their taste is almost neutral. My kids like to eat the small young leaves raw.

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