2 Jan

The marshmallow is an old favorite

Althaea Officinalis

Separate the word marshmallow into “marsh” and “mallow” and you derive it’s origin in a sense.  “Mallow” is taken from the mallow plant (Althaea Officinalis), and “marsh” is where the mallow plant prefers to grow.  What we know as the marshmallow originally began with the Ancient Egyptians,  who prepared the mallow plant by boiling pieces of root pulp with sugar until it thickened. Once thickened, the mixture was strained, cooled, & then utilized for its intended use.  It was a food reserved for the privileged, and was used to soothe cough and sore throat, and to improve wound healing.

The beginnings of the modern marshmallow began in France with the whipping of marshmallow sap with sugar, water and egg whites to make Pâté de Guimauve, all by hand.  It was sold as a lozenge in bar form.  As you can imagine, this was very labor intensive and almost impossible to keep up with demand.

Making Pâté de Guimauve

In the 1800’s, the starch mogul system became available and greatly simplified the process of making mallow-based confections.  Trays of modified corn starch were molded with cavities, into which the mallow mixture was placed and allowed to dry and harden.  Very similar to our version of the ice cube tray!  Around the same time, candy makers began to replace the mallow root with gelatin to make a more chewy candy.

In 1954, Greek American Alex Doumak developed the extrusion process to make marshmallows.  The marshmallow material was pumped through extrusion heads to make a long rope, after which is was cooled and cut.  This process is still used today with slightly different ingredients.

Modern marshmallows are made by boiling water, sugar and corn syrup in large kettles up to a precise temperature and for a precise time.  Once cooled to a specific temperature, rehydrated gelatin is blended in, and the mixture is pumped through a blender with air to create the marshmallow fluffiness.  It is cooled further to hold its shape by pumping through a heat exchanger and onto a conveyor belt for cutting and packaging.  Corn starch coats the conveyor belt to prevent sticking, and the cut pieces are tumbled in corn starch to prevent sticking.


The health benefits of eating marshmallows

Purely psychological!  They have little to no nutritional value, but I believe firmly in the concept of enjoying a treat now and again.  Making s’mores is a wonderful way to spend time with friends and family by the campfire.

Be on the look-out for GMO ingredients

I am sure I don’t have to tell anyone that consuming too many marshmallows is not the best practice for your health, if for no other reason than the amount of sugar!

As tasty as those little fluffy bites look, GMO ingredients are a large part of the marshmallows you find at the store.

The prominent ingredient to look for is corn syrup.  The average marshmallow is made up of around 60% corn syrup, and 93% of corn crops grown in the U.S. are Ht variety.  So the likelihood that the corn syrup in your marshmallows is GMO is very high.

Egg whites are also used in the making of marshmallows.  While there are some that would debate the concept that feeding GM feeds to animals makes the animal and its products GM, I am of the belief that what the animal eats is what builds it’s parts.  So if the chicken is eating GM soybean and corn feed, its eggs will contain GM residuals.

Sucrose, derived from either sugar cane or sugar beets, is another sweetener used in the making of the marshmallow.  The U.S. produces 70% of its sugar from sugar beets and sugarcane and imports the remaining 30%.  Of the sugar beet crops, 95% of U.S.-grown crops are now genetically modified.  It is impossible to guarantee that the sucrose in marshmallows is not GMO.

Where to find non-GMO marshmallows??

Check out my marshmallow review blog to find the answer!

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