Here is a closer photo of the flowers. If using the leaves or flowers of this plant in remedies, wait until the flowers open before harvesting them.
Last year I had two Althea plants, and this year there were four, with no space between the plants. They needed to be thinned to have space to grow properly. So, I didn't feel too guilty removing the two center plants to obtain their roots.
The easiest way to get the root network out of the soil without breaking it is to use a shovel to loosen the soil about 5 inches away from two sides of the plant. Then grasp the base of the plant and pull gently and steadily.
|1st year roots, as wide as your fingers|
|2nd year Roots are as big as|
Use a knife to sever the roots from the base of the plant. It cuts fairly easily. Peel off the outer bark of the roots. I use a very sharp potato peeler to thinly remove the outer bark. It separates so easily lengthwise you could almost just pull and peel it with your fingers, except the mucilage is sticky, and every strand will stick to your fingers. Once you are done removing the bark, your hands will be coated with mucilage. Wet your hands and rub the residual mucilage into them as you would a lotion! Your hands will feel soft and hydrated.
Once the outer bark is removed you can separate the root itself into lengthwise pieces, before chopping them with a knife.
Chop the pieces of root into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. Dry them on a screen or in a basket for a week or more, turning them occasionally to facilitate even drying.
As you can see, the basket is full. The yield was about 3 cups of chopped root from one plant's root system.
For a fun experiment, place a tablespoon of freshly chopped Marshmallow root into a small bowl with 3 tablespoons of distilled room temperature water. (Whether fresh or dried, always use cool water infusion for Marshmallow) Allow to sit overnight. The consistency will be slightly thick with mucilage. I applied it to my face, and felt it's nourishing, hydrating effects right away.
Mash the fresh root or leaf to use as a poultice to soothe and accelerate healing of cuts, scrapes or bee stings. Powder the dried root for use in soaps. Replace the water portion of your creams or lotions with an infusion of Distilled water and Marshmallow Root or Leaf for a non-chemical, skin softening indulgence. Tincture the fresh Marshmallow root, then store the tincture in a small glass spray bottle for quick first aid spray for skinned knees or rashes.
Marshmallow is a useful herb used internally as well. The below link contains recipes using the root to help sore throats and stomach irritation.
Last, but not least, here is a link to a recipe for making your own homemade Marshmallow confections the old fashioned way: