History of Food

History of Food

Monday, August 30, 2010

Today, August 30, is Toasted Marshmallow Day

Ever wonder where the Marshmallow comes from?  Well I did.  I decided to do a little research.

Did you know that the Marshmallow is considered a candy?  I didn't.  Surprisingly it dates back to Egypt, about 2000 BC. The ancient Egyptians are believed to have discovered a wild herb growing in marshes from which a sweet substance could be extracted and made into a very special confection reserved only for the pharaohs and gods. The Egyptians used a honey based candy and thickened it with the sap of the marsh mallow plant (althea officinalis) hence the name marshmallow.

Between 2000 BC and the 19th Century, not much happened in the Marshmallow world.

But in the mid 19th century, candy makers in France combined the sap with egg whites and sugar and whipped by hand into this yummy confection. As the popularity of marshmallows grew, candy makers in Europe needed to find a faster process than hand making the treat. The starch mogul system was developed allowing candy makers to heat a mixture of marsh root, sugar, egg whites and water and pouring into molds made of cornstarch.

Like many of our foods, it was also used as medicine.  Now I can handle this kind of medicine (with a little chocolate and graham crackers - oh I got off track here, apologies).  Doctors also extracted sap from the root of the plant, cooked it with egg whites and sugar and whipped it into a meringue that hardened into a medicinal candy to soothe sore throats, suppress coughs, and heal enhancer wounds.

In 1948, Alex Doumakes (son of the founder of Doumak, Inc., the makers of Campfire Marshmallows) patented the “extrusion process” which vastly revolutionized marshmallow production – making it fast and efficient. The process involves taking the marshmallow ingredients and running it through tubes. Afterwards the ingredients are cut into equal pieces, cooled, and packaged. Thanks to Alex’s invention, marshmallows became an everday sweet treat and favorite ingredient for many recipes.  (Alex HAS to be camp fire aficionado's personal heroes).

The marsh mallow plant, scientifically known as Althea officinalis, is an herb that grows in salt marshes and on the banks of large bodies of water. It is native to Asia and Europe and naturalized in the eastern United States. (Now, don't go out searching for the marsh mallow plant and eat the wrong thing!)

History of the S’More

No one really knows the origin of toasting marshmallows., however, the 1927 Girl Scout handbook (ha - we beat the Boy Scouts at something!)  was the first to document the recipe of combining graham crackers, chocolate and toasted marshmallows. The name s’more is also a mystery…but we know it means… WE WANT S’MORE CAMPFIRE MARSHMALLOWS!!

1 comment:

  1. I liked the "jet puffed" (i think thats the brand...?) marshmallows. Bought some really awful mini mallows @ CVS recently. Icky sweet and tough :p yuck