If we want to describe a very special kind of person, one who seems to help make the world go round, and at the same time keeps their feet planted firmly on the ground, we might refer to them as “the salt of the earth”. Many will also be familiar with the old Jewish custom where guests bring gifts of bread and salt to those who have just moved house- the idea being that these commodities are so essential to life, one should never go without.
Throughout the ages, salt has performed a very useful function, preserving food through sparse times, and undoubtedly helping many communities around the world to survive. It is not surprising then that for thousands of years, salt has held an honoured position in the human psyche, reflected in the tales woven into the folklore of many different cultures.
So why is it that salt seems to have lost it's high status, and for many has become something to be avoided, rather than celebrated? The “fall from grace” has been affected by two main factors: Salt is no longer in such demand as a preservative, because refrigeration, canning, and artificial additives have become more commonly used – but even more importantly, the salt which is still in everyday use has little in common with that used by our ancestors:
Ordinary “table salt” has none of the beneficial qualities of the natu-ral salt it originates from. It has been subject to such intense industrial processing that its chemical composition is completely altered and it is reduced to a single inorganic chemical: sodium chloride. It is also often contaminated and may contain industrial iodine, fluoride or aluminium. Salt of this type has a tendency to saturate the cells of the body, pushing out beneficial minerals and encouraging water retention. Nature never intended us to consume salt in this form and it can play havoc with the mineral balance in the body.
The accompanying photo shows the difference between crystals of sea salt and ordinary table salt-the open structure of natural sea salt encourages correct absorption and beneficial interaction with other minerals.
Aside from table salt and sea salt, most people will be familiar with “rock salt” – this can also have a high mineral content, but unfortunately can contain contaminants due to the industrial mining process, not to mention the degradation of landscape which also ensues.
Therefore we must be truly grateful to have a source of very pure sea salt right here on the island. The salt of Ibiza, harvested in the Nature Reserve of the Salinas, contains over 80 trace elements and minerals, and the composition is identical to the balance of salts in our body fluids.
In search of more information, I recently met up with Daniel Witte, founder of the “Sal de Ibiza” company. For him salt is one of the greatest treasures of this magical island, a treasure which links the past with the present. He points out that the salt works in Ibiza has been in existence for almost 2,800 years.
If there ever were such a thing as a salt connoisseur, Daniel is it. He has immersed himself in the history, the mythology and the science and he appreciates salt as the gift of nature that it is. As well as collecting and selling tons of traditional sea salt from Ibiza around the world, his company is responsible for collecting a very special kind of salt: “fleur de sel”. Until he started the company four years ago it was not harvested here at all. Whilst most of the salt on the island is mechanically gathered, “fleur de sel” can only be collected by hand, and is in very short supply. It is particularly rich in minerals and has a much milder taste than other salts. It is bright white with a pinkish tinge and is extraordinarily subtle and aromatic... Perhaps here lies one of the most precious jewels of our “White Island”!
Please note that despite the benefits of sea salt over “table salt”, those suffering from high blood pressure or other sodium sensitive medical conditions should consult with a doctor before any dietary alteration.
Texto: Helen Howard