Salep or Sakhleb is a flour made from grinding the dried tubers of the orchid genus Orchis (including species Orchis mascula and Orchis militaris). These tubers contain a nutritious starch-like polysaccharide called glucomannan. Salep flour is consumed today in beverages and desserts, primarily in Turkey and in places that were formerly part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The term salep may also refer to any beverage made with the salep flour.
Sakhleb (סַחְלֶבּּ) is a popular warm sweetened drink in Israeli. It is made with milk and cornstarch. The toppings for the beverage might be various: coconut, cinnamon, raisins, nuts. This delicious drink is particularly sought during the winter time in Jerusalem.
Sakhleb was a popular beverage in the lands of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. Its consumption spread beyond there to England and Germany before the rise of coffee and tea and it was 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 sahlab 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.
In Greece sahlab is also consumed, where it is usually sold on the streets as a hot beverage during the cold months of the year.
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