How to find wild food – part 5: Common mallow

Forager Miles Irving tells you all you need to know about common mallow. 

Common mallow illustration by Felicity Rose Cole.

Forager Miles Irving tells you all you need to know about common mallow. 

October is a wonderful time for foraging, not in spite of but because of the slightly gloomier weather.

Rain permitting, plenty of edible fungi decorate the woods and fields and delight the palates of those in the know with their rich, earthy flavours.

Even autumnal frosts can be a cause for celebration because they soften rose hips and mellow the flavour of sloes.

Autumnal gales dislodge fruit and nuts, though the aromatic seeds of wild umbellifers such as fennel, wild parsnip, hogweed and alexanders are easier to harvest when still held aloft by their umbrella-shaped stalks.

Common mallow is one of several plants that produce lush green growth in autumn, following a period of dormancy once they have flowered and gone to seed in summer. Cooler temperatures and rain encourage this growth, which continues until winter sets in.

The shiny green leaves are less prone to attack by insects and fungal rust at this time of year, making it an excellent time to gather them. Mallow is a plant of quite dry places such as field edges, canal paths and wasteground.

The leaves are ‘palmately lobed’ – ie hand-shaped – and the only other plants with similar leaves grow in damper places: the cloudberry, which is found on highland bogs, and lady’s mantle, which prefers damp grassy places. At any rate, both plants are edible.

Mallow leaves can be used raw in a salad or cooked briefly like spinach, as they are in parts of North Africa and the Mediterranean.

For a simple mallow soup, finely chop a small onion and two garlic cloves and fry for one minute, add one thinly sliced large potato and simmer until soft in 1l of stock (veg, beef or chicken).

Fry 300g of mallow long enough to wilt then blend everything together and serve immediately.


Next month... How to find and prepare sea beet. 

Read more how to find wild food blogs. 

Find out more about the work of Miles Irving and follow him on Twitter @foragerLtd.

Discover more about finding food in the countryside with the help of The Forager Handbook by Miles Irving. 

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