Orchidaceae: a robust, relatively tall orchid that is associated with calcareous grassland, often occurs in dense colonies. The flowers are extremely fragrant, typically pink, with a long spur full of nectar, in dense heads from June-August. Widespread and locally common. Native to Europe, including Britain, to north and west Asia.
The root can be cooked. This species is a major source of 'salep', a fine white to yellowish-white powder that is obtained by drying the tuber and grinding it into a powder. Salep is a starch-like substance with a sweetish taste and a faint somewhat unpleasant smell. It is said to be very nutritious and is made into a drink or can be added to cereals and used in making bread. One ounce of salep is said to be enough to sustain a person for a day.
Salep has nutritive and demulcent properties. It has been used as a diet of special value for children and convalescents, being boiled with water, flavoured and prepared in the same way as arrowroot. Rich in mucilage, it forms a soothing and demulcent jelly that is used in the treatment of irritations of the gastro-intestinal canal. One part of salep to fifty parts of water is sufficient to make a jelly. The tuber, from which salep is prepared, should be harvested as the plant dies down after flowering and setting seed.
Before you read any further, you need to understand that unless you are a professional orchid grower, with all the right gear to grow orchids form seed, this is 100% experimental enterprise, and there are no guarantees for success!
Orchids have dust like seed that can dispersed over extremely long distances on the wind. These seeds can survive for perhaps 5 year or more. They must form an endomycorrhizal relationship with a specific soil fungi soon after germination. The first few years after germination are spent below ground, with the young orchid gaining nutrition from its fungal partner. The symbiotic relationship continues as the growing orchid produces it first leaves, normally after 3-5 years, and flowering, perhaps between 3-8 years after germination. Most orchid species will continue to flower and bulk up year after year, but the beautiful Bee orchid sadly only flowers once.
There is no easy way of knowing if your site can provide the right conditions for orchids, or if the soil contains the right fungus, the fungus is, however, very common, even in the absence of orchids. Also, it appears that grassland species may establish and grow better in association with species such as Leonntodon hisidus, and other rosette forming species, in short, open, flower rich swards on poor soils.
When sowing, orchid seed do take all the above into account, but let nature sort out the detail. Sprinkle the seed finely over the surface of your chosen spot. Allow lightly water with rain water to help wash the seed through the vegetation and into the soil. To manage the site, from year to year, at the end of August cut the grass down. Fingers crossed and hopefully you will have your very own orchids in around 3-8 years from sowing.