Lick without guilt!

Lick without guilt!

Summer has come and with the heat waves ahead we’ll all scream for ice cream. One thing almost obligatory of an evening passeggiata is to have a cone of ice cream. No summer evening is well spent without idly licking the chilling treat. Ice cream is the guilty pleasure of summer nights. Guilt? But how guilty a scoop of ice cream can be? Well, we’ll see why.

In Turkey the traditional milk-based ice cream is considerably chewy, one not only licks, but also takes a bite of the frozen goodness. This particular texture comes from salep, a starchy substance obtained by boiling, drying and powdering tubers of various wild orchid flowers. The textural quality of salep is essential in classic Turkish milk-based ice cream which does not contain any eggs or cream, its body comes from the long glutinous chains of glucomannan present in the salep root giving the final product a unique texture and mouth feel. Without salep, considering the lack of eggs and heavy cream, the ice cream would be like a milk sorbet, and would melt readily unable to withstand the summer heat. Salep is also favored by its particular flavor having a particular faint flavor, reminiscent of faded ginger perhaps, as well as an intensified milky taste as dried salep powder interestingly tastes like milk. Because of this quality, salep is also used to make a warm heartwarming drink which is also called salep, slightly thick but silky smooth, enjoyed sipping slowly piping hot. All in all, salep fortifies the milk, both texturally and taste-wise.

Salep is widely collected by peasants in the mountainous regions of Turkey, mostly from the wild orchid varieties Dactylorhiza latifolia, Orchis mascula, Orchis laxiflora, Orchis morio and Orchis militaris. These orchid types grow in the wild abundantly but with excessive and careless collecting, our love for it may prove to be a threat. Most of the salep producing orchis family varieties are listed as endangered species and thus under protection. Though it can be collected and sold within the country, exporting genuine salep is strictly forbidden. Knowing this, salep aficionadas face with guilt, with every sip of salep drink, or with every lick of their favorite ice cream, the sense of doing an environmentally incorrect act clouds their enjoyment.

In the past, there have been attempts in cultivating salep orchids, but no study was put into good practice.

Now the good news, there has been a recent project that can both save the wild species and continue to make salep fans happy too. The project was initiated five years ago in the Black Sea region, in the Black Sea province of Samsun, introducing the agriculture of six varieties of salep orchids as a profitable new crop to the region. The chosen six species were collected from the wild and adapted to cultivation. Growing salep orchids proves to be very profitable for peasants who own only small patches of land as it brings good money per kilo, 60 Turkish Liras for raw fresh root, culminating up to 1,000 liras for the dried processed powder. The project is successfully implemented by 19 Mayıs Ecological Producers Education and Solidarity Association (EKOMDER), which hopes to expand their efforts to a wider group of growers in the future. Their efforts are priceless having trifold benefits: Safeguarding the environment and preventing the loss of the wild orchid; helping the livelihood of peasants by introducing a profitable crop well adapted to the climatic conditions of the region; and last but not least sustaining the joy of licking ice cream without the guilt!

Fork & Cork of the Week: Work from the vineyard! What a brilliant idea. There is nothing like a good glass of wine enjoyed at sunset after a hard day of office work, especially if you are out in open air, feeling the refreshing breeze of the summer evening. But what if you are still home officing and you work day and night, and you do not have a garden, a balcony, or a window with a view? You do not have the time to go out, you keep ordering take away lunches and dinners, and after three months, it seems like vicious cycle. Now you have an option of working remotely, working from a vineyard. Imagine breakfast in bed, a quick refreshing morning walk out in the meadow, working at your room with private deck or balcony overlooking a vineyard, occasional breaks for coffee, healthy lunches, crisscrossing from meeting rooms and business centers, privately reserved sauna to relax, cheerful happy hours, dinner al fresco matched with perfect wines. Now that is a real break from the routine of home-office. With the tourism season opening with post quarantine precautions, some vineyard hotels, especially in Thrace Kırklareli region, are adapting to corona-struck days. Rooms will be available for rent with weekly and monthly deals for bed & breakfast. It will be a safe and serene alternative for white-collar professionals, an opportunity to be out in the nature away from distracting crowds, no COVID-19 threat, no traffic stress and is within easy reach from Istanbul by car in a mere two-three hours’ drive.