Turkey’s Endangered Orchids Are Disappearing, One Sip at a Time

In Turkey, Greece, and parts of the Middle East, salep is a beloved food. For thousands of years, the roots of local orchids have been used to make salep, which is turned into hot drinks, and also a type of thick ice cream. Almost two centuries ago, novelist Jane Austen described the delicious appeal of the drink, which was called salop in Britain: “Tea is great, coffee greater; chocolate, properly made, is for epicures; but these are thin and characterless compared with the salop swallowed in 1826.”

Sadly, salep’s increasing popularity is threatening the orchids, and the harvest of wild plants is unsustainable. Ophrys, Orchis, and Dactylorhiza orchids are dug up, and their tubers are boiled, dried, and crushed into powder. While a few farmers cultivate the plants, it’s mostly made from wild orchids. Scientists are working to conserve the species, but in the meantime, they’re asking people not to buy salep unless they’re certain that it’s been legally and sustainably harvested. Many who enjoy salep don’t realize that it’s derived from orchids. There’s hope that educating consumers about the ingredients will help to protect them.

Read more about salep in my previous posts:

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