A Brief History of Marshmallows

Manjar reservado para los faraones, postre típico de acampadas y clásico de tiendas de golosinas de todo el mundo, este dulce esponjoso se elaboraba antiguamente con la raíz de la malva, una planta muy versátil que crece en zonas pantanosas.

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Molly Malcolm

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Sweet, spongy and delicious. These are probably the first three words that come to mind when we think of marshmallows. This irresistible pink and white sweet is one of the most popular in the world, and is especially appreciated in America. Few people know that, although modern marshmallows don’t look like the healthiest of candies, the original recipe was comprised of simple, natural ingredients.

PHARAOHS’ DELIGHT

It all started around 2000 BC. The mallow is a plant native to marshes in Europe and western Asia. The Greeks, the Arabs and the Romans knew about its medicinal properties and used it as an anti-inflammatory. Its sap helped heal wounds and bee stings, soothe sore throats and toothaches. It even worked as a laxative! But it was the ancient Egyptians who were the first to turn the mallow plant into a treat. They extracted the sap and mixed it with honey and nuts to elaborate a sweet so delicious that it was reserved for pharaohs and gods alone. Unfortunately, we don’t exactly know what this candy was like.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

In the early 19th century French confectioners explored the possibilities of the marshmallow and developed their own version of it. Their approach was to mix dried mallow roots, sugar, water and egg whites together, and whip them by hand in a time-consuming process. The finished product proved so popular that candy makers couldn’t meet customer demand, so they developed the starch mogul system, which allowed them to make marshmallows much faster. They also replaced the marshmallow root with gelatin, which made production easier too. 

In the following years, marshmallows were exported to many countries. By 1927, the Girl Scouts Handbook became the first publication to share a recipe that combined roasted marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. Known since then as ‘s’mores’, these soon became the quintessential American campfire treat.

THE industrial REVOLUTION

In 1948, Alex Doumak patented the marshmallow extrusion process, which allowed him to produce marshmallows in a fast and efficient way. With this system, the mixture was pressed through tubes and cut into pieces, which were later packaged. This is how marshmallows obtained their current shape and became one of the most popular pieces of candy ever made.

These days, Americans consume over 4.08 million kilos of marshmallows every year, and there are all-natural and vegan versions available for those who want a not-so-guilty pleasure. With a few ingredients and some patience, you can even try to make them at home!

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