I am working on a PhD in Ethnobiology on the topic of wild orchid harvesting in Turkey for salep. The working title of my research is ‘Salep a biocultural conservation conundrum; collection of wild orchid tubers in Turkey’.
What is salep? The word salep refers to both dried powdered orchid tubers, and the drink made out of them. Salep (powder) is also used to make ice cream that has a chewy texture. Salep and products derived from it have some medicinal uses.
Why are you doing research on it? Botanical research has advised that people stop consuming salep because it is causing the decline of orchid populations. I am all for plant conservation especially of orchids, which are a group of plants I have a long standing interest in. However I think Food Sovereignty, the right of people to make their own food choices, is important. I also think that attributing orchid population decline solely to collection for salep risks ignoring the other factors that are threatening plant populations in Turkey. Salep, and the orchids it is made from, also have wider relevance, which I talk about in this video.
Where are you doing your PhD? Academically I am based at the University of Kent. Given the field-based nature of my research I am spending increasing amounts of time in Turkey.
What funding do you have? I was awarded a fieldwork grant by the Alice McCosh Trust for spring 2013. The Open Science Network in Ethnobiology (OSN) and Botanical Research Institute Texas gave me a Travel Award for emerging ethnobiologists to attend the OSN symposium at the Society for Economic Botany conference, Frostburg 2012, and for the OSN meeting 2013. Writing and photography is flexible so I fit work around studying; and clearly my studying enhances my work, particularly on the topics of Turkey, orchids and plant uses.