Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jasmine, Marshmallows, and other Sweet Things

My research into jasmine plants digressed  into jasmine as a food source.
And that is where I discovered a tenuous connection between jasmine and marshmallows.
It seems that jasmine syrup is a specialty in France. According to Monin,
a French company that has been making flavored syrups and drinks since 1912,
jasmine syrup is symbolic of "feminine sweetness and beauty."
The Monin web site also asserts that the scent of jasmine imparts
feelings of optimism and confidence.
They recommend adding the syrup to drinks like lemonade and tea.
But they don't say anything about marshmallows.
That little bit of information comes from the results of a search I did for "jasmine syrup."
And what did I find?
A gourmet foods company that sells a packaged mix
 for making jasmine marshmallows, flavored with French jasmine syrup, at home.
One website I found is selling handcrafted marshmallows
for $25 per pound. Another,  $12.00 for an even dozen.
Personally, I can't imagine loving marshmallows that much.
Using sugar syrup and gelatin to make marshmallows is a commercial recipe.
Before the modern age, marshmallows were always made
from the roots of marsh mallow plants.
But not just any marsh mallow; there are different varieties of them
and they don't all yield the sticky confection.

Hibiscus moscheutos is a marsh mallow, more commonly called a rose mallow
because of its rosy pink flowers.
It is native to the mid-Atlantic region along the Chesapeake Bay.
It grows about 4 to 5 feet tall and
looks very much like a hollyhock, to which it is related.
This is a stock photo of a hollyhock:

The "true" marsh mallow is an althea officinalis,
which is native from Massachusetts to Virginia.
This marsh mallow is usually pale pink or white with a pale pink throat.
I've never actually seen one growing in the marshes here in the Shire,
but I have seen them growing in low, wet ditches along roads.
It is the althea officinalis that is the source of marshmallows.  
It's pretty amazing that the common marshmallow
is originally a plant-based confection with a global history dating back centuries.
That's pretty sweet!

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