Sahlep or Salep refers to the drink derived from the orchid. It is a flour made from grinding the dried tubers of Orchis mascula, Orchis militaris and related species of orchids, which contain a nutritious starch-like polysaccharide called glucomannan.
It has been claimed that the name salep comes from the Arabic expression: ḥasyu al-tha`lab Sahlab is the common name of a beverage made from salep flour, whose popularity spread beyond Turkey and the Middle East to England and Germany before the rise of coffee and tea and later offered as an alternative beverage in coffee houses. In England, the drink was known as "saloop". Popular in the 17th and 18th centuries in England its preparation required that the salep powder be added to water until thickened whereupon it would be sweetened then flavored with orange flower or rose waters. Substitution of British orchid roots, known as 'dogstones', were acceptable in the 18th century for the original Turkish variants.
The beverage sahlab is now often made with hot milk instead of water, and is sometimes referred to as Turkish Delight, though that name is more commonly used for lokum. Other desserts are also made from salep flour, including salep pudding and salep ice cream. The Kahramanmaraş region of Turkey is a major producer of sahlab known as Salepi Maraş.
The popularity of sahlab in Turkey has led to a decline in the populations of wild orchids. As a result it is illegal to export true salep out of the country. Thus, many instant sahlep mixes are made with artificial flavoring.
The Ancient Romans also used ground orchid bulbs to make drinks, which they called by a number of names, especially satyrion and priapiscus. As the names indicate, they likewise considered it to be a powerful aphrodisiac.
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Traditional Turkish drinks, www.allaboutturkey.com
TURKISH DRINKS | Ihlamur, boza, sahlep, coffee..., www.bigloveturkey.com
Salep (also known as Sahlep), www.turkishcookbook.com