Travels in Turkey’s honey

In my last post I promised I’d talk more about the honey I brought back with me from Istanbul. Of course, I brought back lots of honeys – those circulating in my bloodstream still from sampling in the market, the honey trapped in pixels on my camera, as well as the honey stuffed into my rucksack.

While I was in Turkey I tried sweet fruit ‘sausage’, made from grape pulp around a walnut, the whole cylinder rolled in honey for preservation.

long cylinders of sweet 'sausage' in the midst of other sweetmeats

sweet 'sausage' of grape pulp around walnuts, rolled in honey

In the open space between the two old giants of Istanbul, the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya, who crouch like sumo wrestlers eyeing one another stonily across the square, I drank honey served with salep. This thick, milky, warming winter drink is made from powdered orchid root, mixed with cinnamon and honey, and sold from vast steaming copper urns.

a copper urn topped with disposable polystyrene cups steams against ancient windows

the delicious drink, salep, made with milk, orchid root and honey, sold from steaming urns in Istanbul

And in the market I saw honeycomb cut from hollow log hives, the round slabs looking like luscious cheeses.

circles of honeycomb packaged two to a frame, hanging from the ceiling

Honeycomb cut from hollow log hives, at the Istanbul spice market

The honey I brought home with me is a simple multifloral from Izmir. It’s free-flowing, and the colour of the old copper urn that the salep drink was served from. Its taste is herbal – drawing, I would guess, from sage and thyme flowers. It’s evocative of somewhere Else, a country where you stop to savour your food, where I was inspired to take rich photographs of ordinary things, a magical land where you can have honeyed drinks from orchid roots prepared for you in the shadow of ancient palaces.

I know I’ve only scratched the surface though – have done no more than scrape off the wax covering of the honeycomb. Turkey has a long history and a broad geography of honey production, and I want to learn more. I’m tempted by the honey tasting walking tours I’ve read about in Northeastern Turkey, led by local women who are beekeepers (the project is close to its target for funding but still needs donations this weekend on Kickstarter – read about it and bee tempted). I know I’m going back to Turkey somehow.


Other honey adventures are narrated in my book, Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo (2011, Signal Books), available through bookshops and on Amazon.

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3 Responses to Travels in Turkey’s honey

  1. I think that sweet “sausage” sounds amazing! Those slabs of honeycombs look lucious. I was just reading about salep or salop as the Brits referred to it when it was made in England. It was even recommended medicinally at one time, considered nutritive. Did you try some? I guess it is illegal to harvest the orchid in England now, from what my book said. The honey you brought home sounds wonderful. I would adore taking that honey tasting tour! How interesting! Thank you for sharing xx

  2. Emily Heath says:

    Mmm I would love to try the salep drink! I like their way of selling honeycomb too.

  3. Oh, the sausage, the salep, it all sounds so amazing!

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