Journey of the Marshmallow Through Time

dec 07 2018

The Holly Hock and Medicine

Marshmallow treats come in different forms, shapes, sizes, colours and flavours. Therefore they have many names but because we live in a society where the English  language is becoming increasingly more prominent, they are mostly known as marshmallows whenever we talk about this delicious candy.




The English ‘marsh mallow’ and the French ‘guimauve’ both refer to a holly hock with yellow flowers related to hibiscus and okra. The holly hock officially known as Althea officinalis was mainly used for pharmaceutical purposes in ancient times, such as cough syrup. Althea is derived from the Greek verb meaning ‘to cure’ or ‘to heal’. Nonetheless, it was also part of the origin story of what we now call marshmallow. The first of its kind was made in ancient Greece, 2000 BC. Later on by the Romans and Egyptians. A time when ancient Egypt was ruled by pharaohs and gods these treats were reserved for only the most holy among men. Root pieces from the mallow were boiled with honey which resulted in a thick slurry. This was then sieved and only when it had cooled was it consumed. Not because its taste, but because it was used in herbal medicine. It was known to heal a sore throat and colds.

Shape the Mallow

Today marshmallows are available in all sizes, shapes, colors and flavors. Marshmallows can even be cut into festive shapes such as Christmas trees or Easter bunnies. But just like cookies, meringues and pastries, it is now completely popular to make hand-made marshmallows. The simpler, the better. In Flanders you will find the most delicious marshmallows at Confiserie Crevin, ‘Artisan Sucre, in Meulebeke. (Marshmallow selection) They have an extensive assortment of marshmallows, such as the white-pink and the vanilla marshmallows with a crackling layer of chocolate. New marshmallows are created every other season. Their creamy cherry is a topper in the summer! For the autumn they have the fruity tastes such as apple covered in chocolate and for Christmas time the snowy cocos,  cinnamon and creme brulee.


Are You an Althaiophobian?

With marshmallows you can go in all directions. In Japan you can even get a pizza with marshmallows on it. They brought out a marshmallow pizza to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Morinaga MilkC°,amilk and dessert producer. The Morinaga Milk Caramel and Marshmallow pizza is finished with almond flakes and a thick crust of cheese. Yummy? Do you know that Ligonier, in Indiana, America, the marshmallow capital is of the world. Every year they organize a marshmallow parade and the Marshmallow Games. So real marshmallow fans over there. There are also people who are afraid of the foamy candy. The phobia for marshmallows is called Althaiophobia. Fear of marshmallows? Yes, it really exists!


From Medicine to a Bouncy Delight

The marshmallow we know today, however, only emerged thousands of years later, in the course of the nineteenth century. Around 1850, food journalist Harold McGee wrote in his book ‘About food and cooking’ that the French mixed the juice of the marshmallow plant with egg whites and sugar until they left a frothy substance. The spongy form was born! They poured that substance into an elongated form that had been dusted with maize starch. Then the marshmallows had to dry for 1 to 2 days. They lay next to each other in long strips, sometimes with a knot in them, and if you wanted a piece, it was simply cut off by the vendor or the pharmacist in question. In France you will still encounter them today: from those long strands of marshmallow, in flavors ranging from aniseed to violets and or orange blossom.


Mass Produced Alternatives 

About thirty years later, around 1880, the marshmallow was dumped and replaced by gelatine. This made the production a lot cheaper and therefore more suitable for mass production. From then on, the marshmallow has only become more famous and especially in the United States the candy is very popular. In the US they also know a variety under the name Mallomar, a marshmallow topped with a thin layer of dark chocolate (here you can click for our Artisan variety). Due to their melting sensitivity and poor transportability, however, this version is only available locally. A bit like the Ghent cuberdon, which was never actually exported for that reason.


A Child’s Favourite

In America, the roasting of marshmallows is a favorite activity and delicacy. It is a phenomenon that only occurred a few decades ago in our country. Especially because it is an activity that is fun for the children. But in the States itself it is real cultural heritage. The ‘Marshmallow roast’ is mentioned in the US in New York for the first time, as new summer entertainment, around 1891. In the meantime, marshmallows have become an important part of children’s traditions; no summer camp or campfire would be the same without roasting marshmallows. At Crevin you can find a chocolate fountain in which children and big children alike immerse our artisan marshmallows!