The plant can be an annual, winter annual, or biennial, and is easily recognized by its geranium-like leaves that have five or seven lobes. Some have deeper lobes while others are nearly round.
Mucilage is what gives mallow its anti-inflammatory properties. Historically, the herb has been used to heal digestive and urinary tract irritations, and even control coughs caused by inflammation.
In his book Natural History, Pliny the Elder asserted that mallow was an aphrodisiac, and when the seeds were sprinkled “for the treatment of women,” they stimulated sexual desire to “an infinite degree.” (Apparently, placing just three roots near the genitalia produced a similar effect as well.)
Mallow is indeed edible, but it isn’t the most exciting leafy green you can forage from your yard. It has a mild, almost nonexistent flavor, and that probably works to its advantage. Like tofu, it just takes on the flavor of everything else in your bowl.
For starters, mallow is highly nutritious. The plant is exceptionally rich in vitamins A, B, and C, along with calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The tender young leaves actually have one of the highest amounts of vitamin A in any vegetable.