Image of marshmallow plant courtesy upload.wikimedia.org.
The marshmallow plant, indigenous to Africa, was originally used in Egypt as a medicine for sore throats. The plant grew in salt marshes near large bodies of water. Its juices were extracted and mixed with honey to make a concoction suitable to give children with sore throats.
In the 19th Century, French confectioners started mixing the marshmallow root juice with egg whites and sugar producing a foamy meringue which hardened into a candy. Later, advance manufacturing eliminated the need for the root juice, thereby eliminating the marshmallow's medicinal qualities.
Photo courtesy www.bigoven.com.
Confectioners started using gelatin instead, making the marshmallows more "stable", also adding corn syrup, dextrose, gum arabic and vanilla flavouring. In 1948, American Alex Doumak devised a way to pipe the fluffy mixture through a tube and then cut it into equal cylinders.
Recipes that call for marshmallows include: Rice Krispies squares, sweet potato casserole, hot chocolate, s'mores, ice cream flavours (Rocky Road) and fudge.
Image courtesy homecooking.about.com.
CARNATION FAMOUS FUDGE RECIPE
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2. cups miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Boil milk, sugar and salt in saucepan for 4 to 5 minutes on medium heat. Stir in marshmallows, chocolate chips, nuts and vanilla. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Pour into 8 inch square baking pan. Chill until firm.