Healing Blessings of Winter

Healing Blessings of Winter

As the seasons turn, the tables of Anatolia are equipped with different tastes. The heralds of each season not only cheer tables, but also promise healing. Now is the time for winter blessings… It is time to taste those that warms us from the inside out like salep, boza, pickles, and tarhana soup offering thousands of cure…


Is there any other beverage that warms you so much in winter? A hot cup of salep with plenty of ground cinnamon on top, who wouldn’t be happy with it? It increases body temperature, smells nice and heals. The homeland of salep plant, although it grows wild in Turkey’s mountainous regions and grasslands, is the Aegean Region and northern Mediterranean. 30% of about 150 orchid species in Turkey is suitable for orchid production. One of the two tubers of the endemic Anatolian orchid, which grows wild at 1000-1500 meters, is picked by experienced people, and the other one is left so the plant can feed. The collected tuber is dried after being boiled in milk or water, becomes a salep tuber used in beverage or ice cream making and is ground into powder in mills. Salep is a traditional drink. Sold by peddlers since the Ottoman Empire. Salep is mentioned annually in the notebook in which the pastes made for the sultans are recorded in the Halvahane of the Ottoman palace. From the 17th century onwards, rose water was added along with various spices to the recipe. In the following centuries, it was flavored with molasses, honey or sugar, sprinkled with ground ginger, cinnamon, rosewater or some other flower waters.

Lokman Hekim’s recommendation

Due to the nutritious essence, the salep tuber was among the supplies of sailing ships in the Middle Ages. Salep was also recommended by the legendary person Lokman Hekim. From past to present, it has been transferred from one generation to another, and has been spread abroad, especially for the relief of cough, bronchitis and lung disorders. According to the general opinion about salep consumed especially in autumn and winter months, it is good for influenza and cough, strengthens immunity, gives a feeling of satiety, prevents sugar cravings if topped with ground cinnamon, relieves the digestive system and intestines, increases the energy of the body thanks to the beneficial content… Especially the salep orchid that grows in the district of Burdur is notable. During the harvest in May and June, salep powder is obtained from the tubers on the roots of the wild orchid plant that grows naturally in the high parts of the Taurus Mountains around Bucak. The most important feature of this geography’s salep is that it is sticky. Its flavor and aroma are different. Aziz Gündüz, who proudly sells the Bucak Salep as a brand, underlines that these tubers are washed and boiled and dried for about 6 months in the sun. Dried salep tubers are crushed and ground in stone mills. Powdered Bucak salep is added to cow’s milk with sugar and boiled by stirring over the low heat for 45 minutes.

RESISTING AGAINST CHANGE: BOZA                                                                                                                                                                                  

There is a winter drink the history of which dates back thousands of years and resists the changing age, although it is about to be forgotten: boza. It is a source of healing with its winter flavor and thick and slightly sour flavor. And with roasted chickpeas on top, it has a unique taste. Boza, the traditional drink of the Balkans, comes from the word “buze” in Persian, meaning millet. It is a fermented drink made with millet semolina, water, and sugar, where beneficial bacteria live. According to some studies, boza was produced in Central Asia and spread to Anatolia and its immediate surroundings through nomads. Boza has many health benefits; an adult person can get close to meeting his daily vitamin B needs by consuming two glasses of boza. This digestive and vitamin source drink also induces milk secretion of new mothers and is a peristalsis regulator. During the bottling, fermentation continues, so it needs to be consumed fast.

From jars to shops…

Now, on winter nights, the number of peddlers who used to sell boza by reciting poems has run out, but the historical Vefa Bozacısı that sells boza in special marble jars in its shop in İstanbul, is still standing. Their boza production that begins with Hacı Sadık Bey, who comes from Prizren, Albania in 1870 and settles in İstanbul in 1876, continues with the fourth generation family members today. Boza, made in those years, is juicy, brown in color and sour. He puts his signature under his own brand by creating a new recipe in his basement; thick, light yellow color, very mild sour taste at the time of the formation of first bubbles of fermentation… For six years, he introduced his boza around the palace at winter nights in copper jugs he carried on his shoulder. Hacı Sadık Bey, who opened his first shop in 1876 in the elite district of Vefa, where the palace members, aristocratic families and bureaucrats of İstanbul lived, maintained the standard by making boza himself for years. In the following years, his son İsmail Hakkı Vefa also joined him. We also have to mention the Akman Boza ve Pasta Salon (boza shop and bakery) in Ankara. The two brothers Vahap and Muharrem Akman, of Albanian origin, engaged in peddling boza in Yugoslavia in the 1900s. They blended Anatolian, Ottoman and Balkan cultures in their first shop selling boza, salep, fermented grape juice, and tamarind in Anafartalar Bazaar in Ulus Square at the end of the 1920s. Today, the name Akman is still a legend in the capital.


Pickles are the prime elements of our winter tables. They are made in early summer and autumn, and when winter comes the jars are opened with pleasure. And the mention of pickles immediately brings beans and rice to mind. The same question always keeps minds busy: is it made with vinegar or lemon juice? Although pickles are usually made out of vegetables such as cucumber, cabbage, and pepper, it is possible to make pickles from all kinds of fruits and vegetables besides these classics. In Ottoman palaces, there would not be a table without pickled cabbage. In the garden of the palace, a variety of vegetables were grown especially for pickle making. In the Tulip Era, following the conversations accompanied by dessert, pickles used to be served. We should also look at the Ottoman Empire for the variety of pickles; pickled artichokes, cucumbers, capers, turnips, grapes, lemons, cherries, cabbage are known to be presented to Fatih Sultan Mehmet’s taste. According to Ottoman sources, rose, carrot, leek, zucchini, and mint pickles were made in the 16th and 17th centuries. Although the most common pickles are made of cucumbers today, pickled grapes were popular in the Ottoman Empire, too.

Historic pickle makers…

There is no doubt that the pickle making has some key points. Pickles, they say, must be crisp. Asri Turşucu was founded in 1913 in Fatih in İstanbul and has been selling pickles in Cihangir-Firuzağa since 1938. Pickles are produced in Bursa’s Orhangazi Gedelek village. When pickles are our subject we should also mention 73-year-old Vonalı Celal in the town of Ordu’s Perşembe district. Capers and highbush cranberry pickles are quite unusual among the pickles made from natural plants, plant roots, and fruits exceeding 120. Grape, egg, smilax, unripe plum, cherry laurel, peach, medlar, anchovy, stonecrop, sea beans, wild pear pickles are among them.


Here is a story; a woman ‘s son comes back from military duty, but due to economic difficulties, she makes him the same food every day but under different names. When the son asks what to eat in the evening; the first day it is bali guli meatballs, the second day it is nape-hitting palate-snapping, the third day it is stuffed camel, and the fourth day it is sıkıcık, the fifth day it becomes the lonesome meatball. It is in fact the

Kütahya Sıkıcık soup, which is another version of tarhana soup in another region. Tomato, pepper, onion, yogurt, mint…Tarhana is an indispensable healing soup to drink in winters. All these products are fermented for 21 days, resulting in a miracle of even higher nutritional value. Since the soup mix is in powder form, it is easily stored without spoiling. Tarhana, a type of soup which is seen with various production methods in wide geography such as Central Asia, Anatolia, and Balkans, is enough to warm up and increase energy in all tables from rich to modest.

Variety of methods…

Tarhana is usually made by fermenting, drying and grinding flour, yogurt, yeast, vegetables, and spices together. However, Anatolia is full of tarhana varieties. There is a great variety from region to region and even from one village to another. Bolu Cranberry Tarhana, which contains the cranberry fruit grown in the region, Kastamonu’s wet tarhana made without drying, Kütahya Sıkıcık Soup which is made by squeezing and rolling fine bulgur, Tokat tarhana where tarhana made of fine bulgur and fermented grape juice squeezed by hand, and Tokat tarhana cooked with garbanzo beans, Seferihisar gummy tarhana with cloves, Antalya tarhana with basil, Denizli’s snack tarhana which must be made with homemade goat yogurt, famous Uşak tarhana, and this list goes on…