Holly A. Heyser
To try Hank's recipe for mallow or grape leaves stuffed with mushrooms and pesto, click here.
One of the fascinating things about the natural world is that no matter how knowledgeable you think you are, what you don't know will always far outweigh what you do. An offhanded comment by my friend Josh about mallow "being everywhere" was a telling example of this.
When Josh said this, I played it off like "Oh yeah, I know." But while I knew mallow was edible, and I was kinda sure it was what I grew up calling "cheeses" (the seeds look like little wheels of cheese), this was the sum total of my mallow knowledge.
Little did I know that the Eastern Mediterranean—Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt—loves this plant. There are many varieties, including a plant not in the malva genus called molokhia or Jew's Mallow. And oddly enough, I had just bought seeds for this plant. I'd seen molokhia in the Kitazawa catalog, and bought it because it loves hot weather and I am in need of heat-tolerant greens. Go figger.
Mallows are mostly a stewing green, as the leaves are a little fuzzy, which can be off-putting if you eat them raw in a salad (but hey, if you like eating fuzzy leaves, knock yourself out). Incidentally, the best source for mallow recipes, as well as a host of other unusual Mediterranean green things, is Paula Wolfert's Mediterranean Grains and Greens. I found a lot of my information in this book.