Şalgam suyu is a savory, sour and lactic acidic fermented beverage produced in the south Mediterranean coast of Turkey and surrounding provinces primarily made from turnip (şalgam in Turkish language), fermented wheat and purple carrots.
Şalgam suyu is produced by a complex process of lactic acid fermentation. First, a sourdough is made with grounded wheat (local karakilcik variety is considered the best suited for the purpose), water and rock salt. Once the dough has fermented for 3 to 5 days, warm temperature (40-45 C°) is added to the dough. When the dough and the water are completely mixed, the water becomes blurry. When the dough sets to the bottom, the liquid is strained through cloth. Once the liquid is ready, black carrots and turnips are sliced and then placed vertically in a jar, covered with the fermented water that has been obtained through the sourdough fermentation, and left to ferment for further 2 weeks at a relatively cool temperature (15-20 C°).
Because of this delicate fermentation process, it can only be produced either at the end of September or in early may, when the temperature are milder. The final product is a dark-coloured, sour and refreshing beverage, lighter on top and with muddy sediments at the bottom.
Şalgam suyu is an intangible cultural heritage. Its perfect taste is harmony with dishes that are peculiar to Adana region, from lahmacun – the Turkish pizza- to simit – local traditional bagels. It is locally regard as a panacea for the digestive systems, as it contains β-carotene, group B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and iron. People also use it as a medicine because of its antiseptic agents, or as a cure to remove toxins from the body, reduce kidney stones.
Although still widely used in Adana cuisine, most salgam suyu is today mostly produced through simplified process, such as the use of industrial yeast instead of sour dough, or even the use of vinegar to artificially recreate the acidic taste. Fewer and fewer people today know how to produce the real artisanal şalgam suyu.