The family is off to another camping excursion this weekend, and the kids’ only concern is that marshmallows are packed. They’re really all you need for nutrition, aren’t they?

So, between dusting off the Coleman stove and washing the sleeping bags, I snuck in a mad dash to a few stores to collect all the marshmallows I could find — minis for cocoa and the full size for roasting.

Hubby Patrick and friend MaryAnn helped in the tasting. The room was flying high on sugar when the night was finished.

We started with the dollar-store marshmallows. Fireside mini marshmallows ($1 for the 12-ounce bag from Dollar Tree) didn’t pass the Kelly taste-testing. “No flavor, with a texture like cotton candy,” grimaced Patrick. “And a stale aftertaste,” added MaryAnn.

Kroger marshmallows, another mini-marshmallow variety ($2.29 for the one-pound bag at Ralphs), fared poorly as well. “These minis are like a shadow; the taste is not as flavorful as a standard-size marshmallow,” said MaryAnn.

Its big brother, the full-sized Kroger marshmallow ($2.29 for one pound at Ralphs), had the tasters waxing poetic. “Tastes like the marshmallows of my youth,” smiled Pat.

“A good standard vanilla taste, nothing to complain about,” added MaryAnn.

The Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallows ($1.28 for ten ounces at Walmart) were a sticky mess right out of the bag. “I hate it when they stick to your fingers,” moaned Pat. “I wonder if they would not be good for s’mores?”

Kraft Jet-Puffed FunMallows, mini marshmallows as well ($2 for a ten-and-a-half-ounce bag at Ralphs), come in four “fun fruit flavors,” states the package. “Fun, my big Irish toe,” jeered Patrick. “These are a cross between flavored vitamins and a marshmallow. They’d maybe work for ambrosia salad, but who wants to eat ambrosia anyway?”

Patrick broke open the Great Value flavored marshmallows, another mini variety ($1 for the ten-and-a-half-ounce bag at Walmart). “Worst crap I’ve ever tasted,” stated Patrick, “and somehow I could tell that by the package.”

“Chalky on the teeth, tastes like Tums, reminds me of pregnancy nausea,” said MaryAnn.

The Great Value marshmallow (92¢ for ten ounces at Walmart) carried the same chalkiness of its flavored relative. “It shows there is a virtuous mean with marshmallows,” my amateur philosopher of a husband commented. “Some are too dusty and airy, and some are too sticky and dense. It appears that with marshmallows, and in all things, virtue lies in the mean.”

“Except that big marshmallows are better than little,” quipped MaryAnn.

The Elyon Natural Vanilla miniature marshmallows ($3.99 for seven ounces at Whole Foods) had been sitting too long on a shelf somewhere. The whole bag was in one clump. “Stale, gritty, feeling the granulated sugar, not cooked enough,” proclaimed Pat.

We set it aside.

The full-sized Elyon Natural Vanilla marshmallows ($3.99 for seven ounces at Whole Foods) also suffered from the gritty texture, but the group agreed that their loglike shape would work well for s’mores over the campfire.

The Safeway large marshmallows ($2 for a one-pound bag at Vons) were another favorite of the testing. Not chalky, not gooey. “What you expect out of a marshmallow,” remarked Pat.

The Safeway mini marshmallows variety ($2 for one pound) were hard and tasteless. “We’re seeing a pattern of dryness with these mini varieties,” said MaryAnn. “They don’t have as much flavor, either.”

Whole Foods sold three different gourmet marshmallows at its bakery counter. Marche Noir white peach, strawberry, and passion fruit marshmallows ($3.99 for eight squares, a five-ounce package). “I just don’t want fruit in my marshmallow,” announced Pat. “The peach tastes like peach bathroom cleaner, the strawberry is like cotton candy, the passion fruit is the best of the bunch. But all three are like putting mustard on a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. The flavor does not belong in the vehicle.”

MaryAnn was more generous, “It might taste good roasted over the fire?”

Our last package was the night’s winner: Sweet & Sara handmade vanilla marshmallows ($7.99 for the eight-and-a-half-ounce package at Whole Foods). “The package looks like a tofu package,” noticed MaryAnn, “and I like the cube shape of the marshmallows.”

“This is the perfect combination of chewy and melt-in-your-mouth,” added Patrick. “They remind me of saltwater taffy but with a fluffy texture. You could set them out on a plate as a treat on their own.”

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Shawne Steroidman,Captain Marshmallow himself needs to weigh in on this article. :-D

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