Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Turkish wild orchids ice cream




My first taste of salepi dondurma, a unique Turkish ice cream made from tubers of wild orchids was many years ago in Grand Bazaar of Istanbul during school trip to this vibrant, beautiful colorful city. Since then, I've tried it many times at different international Food and Wine shows here in Sydney and always love an opportunity to taste it again and again.

Dondurma is the Turkish word for ice cream and salep is the whitish flour milled from the dried tubers of wild, terrestrial orchids grown through Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. Local people collect the orchid tubers for this uniquely Turkish delicacy and this dessert made from tubers flour, milk and sugar. The frozen mixture then beaten with metal rods until it's very elastic in texture and can be eaten with a knife and fork. The taste - slightly sweet, nutty, subtle earthy and comes in many flavors - apricot, pistachio, peach, vanilla, red currant and many others.

Originally, salepi dondurma was mixed by hand. It was then pounded to a smooth consistency with metal rods, and then stretched by hand. These days gelato machines used for freezing and mixing, but the final product is still beaten and kneaded with metal rods for some time, to achieve the proper degree of elasticity.
This delicacy, I was told, also have unique medicinal properties and according to Gioscorides, Greek Physician from First-Century AD and other more recent experts in this field, salepi dondurma can " heal the spleen, prevent cholera and tuberculosis, facilitate childbirth, stop your hands and feet from shaking, prevent getting lump on your back, keep your chest soft, heal bronchitis and used as an aphrodisiac when needed." For many years now I've been evaluating long-term benefits of wild orchids ice-cream and look for it anytime opportunity presents itself.

Ahh, but perhaps the best medical advice about the properties of salepi dondurma I received from colorful ice-cream vendor in Istanbul all these years ago - "it will cure those who mentally fallen crazy in love"... No comment.

Here is a short video showing traditional serving of ice-cream by Turkish ice-cream vendors:


19 comments:

  1. O-o..yummy! They must be very talented not to ever drop the cone...wow!

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  2. Wow, thank you for telling me about this - I haven't heard about such ice cream before. I hope I will get to try it too some day...

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  3. This is a really interesting post. I've never heard of ice cream made from orchids, but it sounds delicious. I got a kick out of hte medical advice you were given! I now have another reason to want to visit Turkey.

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  4. Is the tuber of an orchid comparable to a parsnip ?

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  5. Harvesting wild orchids? Are there any left??

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  6. Vanilla is an orchid, but that is using the seedpod, and the plant grows on. If you are harvesting the tuber, the plant is gone!

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  7. ...and i didn't there are orchids with tubers! Is the first photo the species which give the tubers? I should have known this before i went to Turkey, maybe there are nothing like that in Turkish Restos here! amazing

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  8. Thank you all for your comments and for allowing me to introduce to you this Turkish delicacy.
    There is also a hot drink called salep made from dried orchid tuber flour, sugar, milk, and cinnamon. For hundreds of years it has been used during cold winter months in Greece, Turkey, Syria, and even England, where it was called "saloop".
    In many parts of the world, orchids are not only known for their beautiful flowers, but also used in many communities for their traditional medicine and healing properties.There is a massive body of works out there dealing with healing side of orchids in oriental medicine and a lot of work currently done by the Indian researchers into medicinal side of native orchids.
    I was told that salep for making ice cream comes from wild-collected plants and local people claim that these orchids (O. latifolia, O. mascula, O. anatolca) are abundant and this is why no one has made a serious attempt to propagate them artificially in nurseries. The collecting areas, and the species used change from year to year, depending in rainfall and normal fluctuating weather patterns prevent any one habitat from being over-collected.


    In regards to vanilla orchid, I have written a post some time ago about this orchid and my personal experiences - http://myorchidsjournal.blogspot.com/search/label/vanilla%20orchid

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  9. Oh. I think I saw something like this in Singapore. I don't recall now if that was Turkish ice cream. If I had known what it was, I would have tried it. Thanks for posting this. Very informative.

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  10. I have never heard of this, but with all the benefits, no wonder it is so popular! I enjoyed the video; it had me laughing, and now I want some of this elastic ice cream too!

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  11. Wow, I had no idea! I've never heard of ice cream made from Orchids. I would have thought it would be harmful to one's health. Thanks for the info and the great photos/video.

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  12. Always something new to learn, prevents getting lumps on your back and keeps the chest soft! (love it)

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  13. Fabulous post... I was all set to try and find some (I don't want lumps on my back - keep them up front and soft, thank you)... but when I read it would cure me of being crazy in love, I decided I'd better pass. I'm crazy in love with my hubby -- and not taking any chances! Very interesting history and info... jsut love your orchids!

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  14. Great Post! Had no idea one could have orchid ice cream.

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  15. When He held the ice cream in his bare hand, I began to hope it also has antiseptic properties.

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  16. I waited to comment because I guessed that the comments would be as interesting as the post so I came back. I am really intrigued, but doubt I will ever be somewhere it is served. It looks really sticky in consistency and trust you in saying it is really good. I believe too that it has medicinal properties,but the last one seems a bit suspect.

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  17. Awesome post. I've heard of it but would like to try it sometime.

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  18. Such a unique way to serve ice-cream. I bet it was a very fun experience!

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