Malva parviflora (and other Malva species), called cheeseweed or mallow, is a common introduced “weed” found throughout California in urbanized areas.
The whole plant is edible, and has a mild and pleasant taste. The larger, older leaves and stems can be a little tough, so are better cooked.
The tasty fruits look like miniature cheesewheels, from which the name comes (although it tastes nothing like cheese).
The whole plant has a mildly mucilaginous texture, but the mucilage is especially concentrated in the roots. The fresh or dried roots, chopped up and brewed into a tea, is an effective medicine for stimulating the healthy function of the bodies’ mucus membranes (internal organs, stomach lining, trachea, mouth, nostrils, eyelids, genitals, and anus).
Mallow root tea is an ancient remedy for sore throat, cough, and upset stomach because it soothes the irritated mouth, throat, and stomach.
In fact, the original marshmallow (now a wholly artificial concoction) was made by brewing a decoction (strong tea) of the marsh mallow’s roots, adding a lot of sugar, whipping the concoction into a froth, and drying dollops of it to form cough drops that were sucked to sooth the cough, sore throat, or stomach ache.