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Previous Page The Marshmallow Story Next Page


For other activities, see the Activities Chapter.

This makes a good story for around the campfire when you are munching down a s'more!

Who would like to take a guess as to how old the marshmallow is? 50 years? 100 years? Maybe 200 years? Would you believe before Columbus discovered America? Would you believe before the birth of Christ? Well, would you believe 4000 years? That's right 4000 years, 2000 years before the birth of Christ.

Marshmallows date back to ancient Egypt. Some historians claim marshmallows got their name when pharaohs discovered that by squeezing the mallow plant (Athaea officinalis) which grows wild in marshes, a sweet, sticky substance surfaced. Honey was flavored with the extract. The delicacy was so special, it was reserved for gods and royalty only.

Marshmallows were introduced in France in the mid-1800s, where owners of small candy stores made them by sweetening, whipping and molding gummy sap from the mallow root. Doctors extracted juice from the marsh mallow plant's roots. It was then cooked with sugar and egg whites and then whipped. When this foamy meringue hardened it created a medicinal candy that was used to soothe children's sore throats, suppress coughs, and help heal minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.

Consumers liked the marshmallow's unique texture and taste so much that candy makers couldn't keep up with the high demand. The candy makers needed a way to make marshmallows faster. The "starch mogul" system was developed in the late 1800s. This system allowed marshmallows to be made in 24 to 48 hours.

Instead of making marshmallows by hand, the "starch mogul" system used molds made of corn starch (like jelly beans are made today). Around the same time, gelatin (which can also be traced back to ancient Egypt) replaced mallow root. Today's marshmallows don't actually include any mallow; they are a combination of corn syrup, corn starch, sugar, and gelatin.

In 1948, a marshmallow manufacturer by the name of Alex Doumak, experimented with different methods of marshmallow making. He was trying to speed up the process. He discovered a revolutionary process called the "extrusion process". The "extrusion Process" involves pumping the marshmallow mixture through long pipes and cutting it into the shape we are familiar with today.

In the early 1950's the "jet-puffed" process was developed. This process infuses air into the marshmallow. This gives it a lighter, fluffier texture.

Today, extruded, jet-puffed marshmallows can be cooked, cooled, formed, bagged, and packed in just 60 minutes.

Marshmallows are available around the world but are only made by three companies. Marshmallows are especially popular with Americans who purchase more than 95 million pounds annually.

Copyright © 2002 Vincent Hale