Turkish delight or Lokum is a family of confections based on a gel of starch and sugar. Premium varieties consist largely of chopped dates, pistachios and hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the gel.
The sweet as it is known today was invented by Bekir Effendi, who moved from his hometown Kastamonu to Istanbul and opened his confectionery shop in 1776.
Originally, honey and molasses were its sweeteners, and water and flour were the binding agents, with rosewater, lemon peel and bitter orange as the most common flavors (red, yellow and green). Lokum was introduced to Western Europe in the 19th century. An unknown Briton reputedly became very fond of the delicacy during his travels to Istanbul and purchased cases of it, to be shipped back to Britain under the name Turkish delight. It became a major delicacy in Britain and throughout Continental Europe for high class society. During this time, it became a practice among upper class socialites to exchange pieces of Turkish delight wrapped in silk handkerchiefs as presents.
The Turkish words lokma and lokum are derived from the Turkic luqma, meaning morsel and mouthful.