Salep: The delicious taste comes from wild orchids

Delicious Salep with Cinnamon

Salep or Sahlep, commonly the internal heater winter drink in Turkey. Salep is sold as a ready powder and mixed with cold water or milk, boiled until hardened, and then added with cinnamon for desire.

Salep is obtained from the roots of orchids are rarely found in West Asia and Turkey. The orchid is a shade-loving plant. Generally grows in areas such as forests, maquis, meadows and olive groves. Anatolia; north, east, southeast and south; Kastamonu, Silifke, Antalya, Mugla, Safranbolu and finally in Kahramanmaras which is famous with ice creams. There are about 150 orchid species in Turkey. 30% of this can be used for Salep production.


The word “Salep” was first used in 1421 by Yadigâr-ı İbni Şerif to describe the “orchid plant and its root”. Evliya Çelebi, in his book Seyahatname, used the word “salep” for “powder derived from the orchid root and the beverage made from it”. However, Ahmet Vefik Pasha gave a piece of  interesting information about salep in his book called Lugat-ı Osmani in 1876:

“(…) They say winter days, χusyetüs-saˁleb سعلب, which is fox’s testicles (…) that is a plant looks like a fox’s testicle kind a clove of garlic.”

Indeed, “Salep” in Arabic, “χuṣyatu’ṯ-ṯaˁlab” (خصية الثعلب), that comes from the fox’s testicle. As stated in Nisanyan Glossary, the word orhis in the sense of “testis” in Latin was used to describe the orchid because of the shape of the rhizomes of the orchid plant. In English, “dogstones” are used to describe orchids in the sense of “dog testicle”. In the mouth of Anatolia, the orchid is referred to as a ‘dog testicle’.

In order to produce this powder, the bulbs of the orchid (Orchis, Ophyrus, Serapias, Platanthera, Dectylorhiza) are taken, separated, washed, boiled, left to dry, and finally pulled into small pieces.

The records of this plant have been in use since the 12th and 13th centuries, since the palaces of the doctors used in the medical prescriptions for the Ottoman Sultans. The sultans also liked it because it was thought to have a bitter aphrodisiac effect. Also strengthens the immune system, cough and colds would be good. Today, it is known that the effect of coughing with mucilage in the salep. Mucilage also has the ability to give consistency as it has a high water holding capacity. This feature is also essential in the ice cream industry. The salep used in the famous Maraş ice cream gives the ice cream its adhesive consistency. You can find the delicious salep in our store.

Researchers say they need 1,000-4,000 pieces of bulbs to make a kilogram of sahlep powder. Considering that the production of sahlep is between 30-50 tons to meet the needs of the food, medicine and cosmetics sectors in our country, we can understand that more than 50 million orchids have been destroyed every year. Since the dominant bulb of the orchid is used in the production of sahlep powder, the life of the orchid is also terminated. Thus, the excessive harvest of the wild orchid populations in Turkey came under threat.

Turkey has a Salep Action Plan Eylem, which was launched in 2014 and completed in 2018. Turkey was importing this expensive product until 1996, because endangered orchid species. The orchid cultivation in the garden environment research has been successful, by the Aegean Agricultural Research Institute. In the next stage of the plan, there are studies of these orchids to be trained by farmers. For the first time in Bilecik this year, orchids were produced for industrial purposes. In the province of Yozgat, the orchid was grown in the field began to be planted.

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