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.