It has been a while since we’ve been fortunate enough to have a historical post from Inka Piegsa-Quischotte. She as started the year for us with the history of Salep. It sounds wonderful for cool weather.

Salep – A Turkish winter speciality!

Don’t you just love the idea of drinking liquid orchids? I certainly do and I couldn’t wait to get ym first cup of Salep, now that winter has arrived in Turkey and to learn what it is all bout.

Salep is the name of the drink as well as of the plant. It’s a flour made from grinding the dried tubers of wild orchids, among them Orchis mascula. The powder is then mixed with hot milk, flavored with spices and sweetened with sugar and you have your liquid orchid drink.

As I’m always interested in any historical background to the foods I taste, I perused further and, sure enough, came up with several facts. Due to the shape of the tubers, aphrodisiac  qualities have been attributed to salep and one of the first to mention it, was the famous toxicologist and doctor Paracelsus.

In  the 18th and 19th century, when Europe was in the grip of an infatuation with everything ‘oriental’ by which they mostly referred to ‘Turkish’, salep became all the rage in British coffee houses where it was even more popular than coffee or tea.

At the time, the powder  was mixed with hot water and then flavored with orange blossoms and rose water. Today, the preferred spice to sprinkle on top is cinnamon. Salep has a creamy, very mild texture and not only tastes good but is also very nutritious.

Due to the obsession with salep  of Turks and visitors alike and the fact that 2500 wild orchids, mostly from the Kahramanmaras region of the country, are needed to produce just 1 kilo of salep powder, the orchid resources are endangered. Therefore it is now illegal to export real salep. You can also buy artificial flavor and ready made salep, but it’s just not the same as enjoying a cup of salep and cinnamon, sitting on the terrace of one of the famous cafes in Istanbul which specialize in the drink and let your  eyes drift across the rippling waters of the Bosporus.

I hope you enjoyed Inka’s history lesson on Salep as much as I did. You can follow her adventures on Glamour Granny Travels at Inka travels more than I do and hits some very less traveled destinations. Check out her website, I’m sure you’ll like it.

Thanks Inka. We look forward to the next historic food story.