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Salt Flower

Updated on March 14, 2011

The Algarve has a tradition of extracting salt that goes back as far as to the Phoenicians and later being perfected by the Romans. Salt Flower extraction in the climate that the Algarve has with over 300 days of sunshine secures this secular craft of quality.

The name Salterns, where salt is extracted, are still in use along the Atlantic coastline, in the Ria Formosa National Park and are still worked by manual techniques that changed little for over 2000 years.This is more than a historical fact, only manual artisan salt culture can guarantee this white premium sea salts. This craft production is based on clean seawater, a good climate and the skills of the wise salt extractors.

No mechanical devices are used either for the harvest or for the preservation of the salt basins.

Salt production is strictly from evaporation by the sun and wind. The result is a damp sea salt that is free of treatments or additives, which preserves the seawater's mineral composition, making it a completely natural and sought after product with a high nutritional value.

Unlike the normal natural salt that takes two weeks to form before it is harvested, salt flower is the delicate thin top layer of freshly formed salt crystals that float in the evaporation basins.

It is daily and gently skimmed off, sun dried then packed by hand for transport. This is the salt that gives an extra touch to cuisine and will not harm you.

Chefs and connoisseurs world round cherish salt flower for their full yet delicate flavor that makes common refined salts taste harsh and bitter in contrast.

For sea salt, the season usually starts in May, when springs rain have stopped and the ponds, dikes and wooden locks have been cleaned and prepared.

Seawater is then let in at high tide, wooden locks closed and through solar evaporation in successive ponds are concentrated to brine which is forwarded to the small shallow basins.

There with evaporation at work, salt crystals form until the brine is spent and the salt is ready for gathering.

After each harvest, new sea water is added for the crystallization to continue, and the process is repeated until the end of September or when the first autumn rains demand the end of the harvesting season.

In the winter time the salt ponds remain flooded, creating a sheltered habitat for a variety of water bird species such as flamingos, ibis, spoonbills, oyster catchers and egrets, migrating and nesting.

Life started in the oceans and still today human blood and bodily fluids closely bear a resemblance to seawater in regards to their chemical composition.

This sun-dried process, moist sea salts retain the seawater’s vital natural state and mineral range, giving the salt a full balanced taste.

It is well known to enhance the natural flavors of food rather than to be too intense.

Unlike denatured refined salts, that contain little more than sodium chloride along with various artificial agents, salt flower is all natural, composed of the elements naturally occurring in seawater and essential to a healthy nutrition, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, iodine, fluor and selenium.

When it comes to natural sea salt, it is important to know where and how the salt is produced and which quality control criteria are applied.

Manually harvested sea salt flower from the Eastern Algarve is used all around the world by the best chefs and restaurants.


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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Very interesting! I had never heard of "salt flower" and will have to look for it. Thanks for this information!

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