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What Is a Marshmallow?

Marshmallows, this staple of campfires and hot cups of cocoa, was first sold commercially in the late 19th century. It is a popular candy and is known for its soft and fluffy texture.

Today’s marshmallows come in a variety of sizes, colors and shapes. However, the traditional marshmallows were actually just…white. They were made from marshmallow root, mixed with whipped egg whites, vanilla extract, and sugar. Since marshmallow root was hard to obtain, this ingredient was eventually replaced by gelatin, which wa made from animal bones. The resulting mixture was then rolled, shaped, and sliced into small cylinders measuring about 1 inch in diameter. Some cooks would then dust or roll the cylinders into confectionary sugar or cornstarch, to reduce stickiness and give a powdery texture.

Marshmallows are delicious, though the animal bones make them taboo among vegetarians and strict Jews who follow Kosher rules. However, they can enjoy the flavor by substituting it with marshmallow cream, which does not use that ingredient, or make their own using marshmallow roo, carrageenan or agar.

Marshmallows come in different sizes. The smallest ones are ideal for garnishing hot cocoa; they melt and add a creaminess to the drink. Bigger marshmallows can be used to add color and extra fun to hotdogs on a stick or other cocktails, or to decorate cakes and other desserts. The biggest marshmallows can be placed into a stick and then roasted over campfires, resulting into a hard, crunchy exterior that melts in one’s mouth. Another campfire favorite is S’mores, where toasted marshmallows are sandwiched with chocolate between graham crackers.

Because marshmallows can be rather large, they have been related to some choking incidents resulting in death. It is much better to give younger children mini-marshmallows, which won’t block the throat, or to cut a marshmallow into sections. As well, anyone who consumes a marshmallow in any form should be certain to chew carefully so as not to accidentally block the throat with a whole marshmallow.

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