Originally published on July 31st, 2015 on UnusuallyDelicious.
Ever since I first started reading about edible weeds, I have to say that I am much more observant and careful when weeding my garden this year! Since the main garden patch has been allowed to go to weed as I re-engineer my garden this year (if you'd like to see my plan and progress, please visit my gardening blog Green-ishThumb) and pretty much all of my "crops" are in containers this year, let's just say that there is a tonne of weeds to pick! (*NOTE* Green-ishThumb will also eventually be moving here, so I'll update this link [hopefully] when that happens.)
I was out earlier this week trying to get a handle on the jungle out there when I spotted something that looked interesting. I don't recall seeing it before in my yard, so I didn't pull it and promptly got onto my Pinterest foraging board to try to identify whether this was one of the edible types. As luck would have it - it was! And yes, I checked, double checked, and then checked again to make sure there were no poisonous "look-alike" plants out there. If you're going to eat wild, especially if it's something you're unfamiliar with, always, always, triple check everything! Your safety and health is infinitely more important than trying out new things.
Medicinally, mallow can be used as an astringent, laxative, expellant, and anti-inflammatory. Here is a great site that gives you some idea of what the indigenous peoples such as the Cherokee, Iroquois, and Navajo used it for.
As for food, well, I can tell you that it tastes quite delicious sauteed (as I did for this recipe) with some onions and garlic. I did not try it raw (I probably should have), but according to all the sites I visited, it tastes good raw in a salad. Generally, you can use it in spinach's place in any type of dish.That is what gave me the idea for this take on spinach and feta burek. There's one more great site I'd like to mention, pennilessparenting.com, which is chock full of great information all about mallow, basics, photos, foraging, and some stuff to do with it.
You can also make actual marshmallows with them! The candy (or is it a confectionery?) was originally made from powdered mallow root, although it isn't any longer. Yet another way we've forsaken the mallow. Here is a site with a recipe using the root powder. I would like to actually plant some mallow next season and try to dry and grind the root myself. Mallow was on the list for my medicinal garden, but from what I've read it is not shade tolerant, so into the actual garden it will go!
I only had the one plant in the yard, sorry, I did not take a picture of it in situ. I pulled up the whole thing, did my best to shake any resident bugs off of it, and brought it inside for preparations to become a part of dinner. I did place the root in water, thinking maybe I can stick it back in the ground to see if it will regrow it's leaves. I also placed various types of stems, leaves, and other cuttings into a glass of water to see if I could get any of them to root. So far, one out of the three in the glass has keeled over and died. The other two are still okay. I will most likely let you know at a later time on Green-ish Thumb if I have any success with either method.
You may also be wondering what the heck 'burek' is. Well, its a Croatian dish that is basically butter, phyllo pastry, and a filling consisting of cheese, cheese and spinach, potatoes, ground meat or apples. You could put pretty much anything inside and it would be delicious, and you can eat it hot or cold, its just that good. Although you technically could put anything inside, the five fillings I mentioned are the ways that I grew up eating it. I don't have the patience to make my own phyllo pastry, so I do get the store bought ones that come in a box. You can find them in the freezer section in the general vicinity of the frozen bags of fruit. Traditionally, burek is rolled up, but I decided if I'm going to change it up, might as well change the shape also! If you'd like to see what a traditional burek recipe looks like, head over to likecroatia.com for a great traditional recipe.
Lastly, before we get to the recipe portion of our program, I'd like to give you a few pointers in regards to method. Firstly, please take the time to strain the cottage cheese. To do this, place cheese in some cheesecloth, which is in a strainer, and place it over a bowl for about 5 hours. This will allow all the excess moisture to drain out and you'll have a much drier cheese to work with. If you skip this step - I did because I saw the mallow too close to dinner time - you will not have as crisp a bottom as you should. Trust me, the crispiness of the pastry is part of the burek experience.You'll only see one egg in the picture... I made a mistake, again, rushing, and only added the one. You need that second egg, it makes a difference. Also, I used a glass dish with the interior measurements of 7-1/2 x 12" if that makes a difference to you.
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