Pat Shingleton: "Pass the Salt..."
Salt farming depends on the weather and for French artisan farmers; it’s a labor of love. The wind and the heat of the sun creates a high tide in Guerande, France; an area of marshy meadows, also known as the “Cote Sauvage.” Europeans have harvested salt from the earth at this location 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. Tides, sunny warm days are the key ingredients in salt farming. The marshy meadows of France include 200 salt farmers or paludiers that 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 that resembles a swimming pool skimmer to gently 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 the sun.