Marshmallow is a light, spongy, very sweet confection.
It is typically made from sugar, water and gelatin whipped to a squishy consistency, molded into small cylindrical pieces, and coated with corn starch.
Marshmallows owe their namesake to a the marsh-mallow plant (Althaea officinalis). It is called the marsh-mallow plant because it grows in marshes!
The marsh-mallow is a perennial flowering herb. It has strongly veined heart-shaped or oval leaves. The white-pinkish flowers, borne on stalks about 1.8 metres (6 feet) tall, are about 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter. The herb is native to parts of Europe, North Africa, and Asia.
It is not known exactly when marshmallows were invented, but their history goes back as early as 2000 BC.
Ancient Egyptians were said to be the first to make them, and eating them was a privilege strictly reserved for gods and for royalty, who used the root of the plant to soothe coughs and sore throats, and to heal wounds. The first marshmallows were prepared by boiling pieces of root pulp with honey until thick. Once thickened, the mixture was strained, cooled, and then used as intended.
Whether used as a candy or for medicinal purposes, the manufacturing process of marsh mallows was limited to a small, almost individual, scale. Access to marsh mallow confections was limited to the wealthy until the mid-nineteenth century. Common people only tasted marsh mallows when they took pills; doctors sometimes hid the medicine inside the candy to cover the pill’s undesirable taste.
Modern marshmallow confections were first made in France around 1850. This first method of manufacture was expensive and slow because it involved the casting and molding of each marshmallow. French candy makers used the mallow root sap as a binding agent for the egg whites, corn syrup, and water. The fluffy mixture was heated and poured onto the corn starch in small molds, forming the marshmallows. At this time, marshmallows were still not mass manufactured. Instead, they were made by confectioners in small stores or candy companies.
In the late 1800s, candy makers started looking for a new process, and discovered the starch mogul system, in which trays of modified corn starch had a mold firmly pushed down in them to create cavities within the starch. The cavities were then filled with the whipped marshmallow sap mixture, and allowed to cool or harden. At the same time, candy makers began to replace the mallow root with gelatin which created a stable form of marshmallow.
By the early 1900s, thanks to the starch mogul system, marshmallows were introduced to the United States and available for mass consumption. They were sold in tins as penny candy, and were soon used in a variety of food recipes like banana fluff, lime mallow sponge, and tutti frutti.
In 1955, there were nearly 35 manufacturers of marshmallows in the United States. About this time, Alex Doumak, of Doumak, Inc., patented a new manufacturing method called the extrusion process. This invention changed the history of marshmallow production and is still used today. It now only takes 60 minutes to produce a marshmallow. Today, there are only three manufacturers of marshmallows in the United States, Favorite Brands International (Kraft marshmallows), Doumak, Inc., and Kidd & Company.
Today, Americans are the main consumers of marshmallows. According to the National Confectioners Association, Americans buy 90 million pounds of marshmallows each year
Marshmallow is considered a year-round snack even though the majority is sold during October and December.
Over 50% of marshmallows sold during the summer months are toasted over a fire.
S’mores are a traditional campfire treat in the United States, made by placing a toasted marshmallow on a slab of chocolate, which is placed between two graham crackers. These can then be squeezed together, causing the chocolate to begin melting.
S’more is a contraction of the phrase “some more”. One early published recipe for a s’more is found in a book of recipes published by the Campfire Marshmallows company in the 1920s, where it was called a “Graham Cracker Sandwich”.
The most marshmallows eaten in 1 minute is 25, achieved by Anthony Falzon (Malta) in Sliema, Malta, on 25 March 2013.
The most marshmallows caught in the mouth with a home-made catapult in one minute is 47, and was achieved by Ashrita Furman (USA) and Homagni Baptista (Australia) in Kyoto, Kyoto, Japan, on 18 September 2018.
The largest s’more weighs 121.11 kg (267 lbs) and was made at the Deer Run Camping Resort (USA), in Gardners, Pennsylvania, USA, on 31 May 2014.
National Toasted Marshmallow Day is celebrated on August 30.
Althaiophobia is the fear of marshmallows, mostly caused by the gooey texture.