If you happen to be in Turkey during the cold winter months then you must definitely try the traditional hot drink known as Salep to warm you up. This delicious drink was one of the most famous traditional Turkish drinks in the Ottoman Empire and is nowadays sold at almost every corner of the street during the winter. It contains a special powder that has been extracted from the tubers of Orchis; a genus in the orchid family (Orchidaceae). This tubers contain a nutritious starch-like polysaccharide that has been thought to have aphrodisiac qualities, helps to sooth colds and coughs and strengthen the immune system.
The Orchis are gathered during flowering season and once harvested, the tubers are washed, boiled, dried and grindend into a fine white powder that gives the drink its unique flavour. The powder is combined with hot milk and sugar into a hot, thick drink and usually garnished with a sprinkle of cinnamon. It’s absolutely delicious although the first time you drink it you may find it a bit strange, probably due the structure which is quite difficult to describe, but perhaps grainy and very creamy would be best. The same goes for the taste which is nearly impossible to describe. It doesn’t taste like anything else I can think of. It’s milky, sweet, a bit earthy and depending on where you drink it sometimes even slightly floral. It is a delightful drink that you must try. In fact, I would even say it’s a reason to visit Turkey during the winter as this is the only time of the year that salep is sold and it’s almost impossible to find outside Turkey as the nation has severely curtailed exports due to concerns about Turkey’s orchid population.