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Pat Shingleton: "Salt of the Earth"

3 years 5 months 3 weeks ago Wednesday, April 29 2015 Apr 29, 2015 April 29, 2015 3:00 AM April 29, 2015 in Pat Shingleton Column
By: Pat Shingleton

Numerous salts and salt products are used in Louisiana for a multitude of uses. Salt farming depends on the weather and for French artisan farmers; it's a labor of love. The wind and the sun's heat creates a high tide in Guerande, France; an area of marshy meadows, also known as the "Cote Sauvage." Europeans harvested salt from this area since the ninth century and salt farmers or paludiers use the same technique and tools to collect this caviar of salt. The collection process begins with a wooden gate that traps the sea water into the marsh. When the correct amount of water flows at the correct rate, a maze of clay walls promotes slow evaporation. After a month, the water seeps into shallow pools and salt appears.In addition to tides, sunny warm days are the key ingredients in salt farming. Salt farmers, known as paludiers, collect the gourmet of all salts for use in renowned restaurants worldwide. Once a wooden gate traps the sea water, a collection of clay walls promotes slow evaporation. Seepage leads to shallow pools and the appearance of the salt. Salt farmers use a tool, resembling a swimming pool skimmer to drag what looks like a lattice of thin ice into a wicker basket. After skimming the top, the evaporation process continues, leaving the clay-bottomed basin loaded with coarse grey salt. Natural salt is less acidic and less sharp than industrial salts and the paludier's harvest of 60 tons of salt relies on wind, water and sun.

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