Artisan Sea Salt: Organic, Traditional Healing, Medieval Re-creation, and Cleansing Magic!
Article ID: 15313
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Posted: March 3rd. 2013
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Sometimes known collectively as Artisan salt, there are several brands that are still harvested in the traditional manner. The Celtic Sea in Brittany and Tavira in the Ria Formasa Natural Reserve in Portugal are just two of the places that still practice the ancient techniques that some suggest can be traced back for thousands of years. Celtic Sea Salt is in fact a brand name of sea salt that is harvested in the traditional manner. This brand and some others are certified by Nature et Progrès, one of the oldest PGS in the world, functioning without discontinuity since 1972. Nature et Progrès still operates as a PGS, with its own private organic standard, its own certification procedures (involving peer review and consumers in the inspection process) but is not allowed to call its products “organic” (“biologique” in French) due to the third party certification requirements of the EU regulation. I still find the designation very useful, however, using this third party certifier to distinguish their products from mined rock salt or evaporated sea salt.
We are salt-based creatures- tears, blood and sweat are salty. Those who preach a ‘no salt' diet should instead say a ‘no refined sodium chloride’ diet. Traditionally harvested sea salt is completely unrefined to ensure proper bodily utilization. You will notice that it is moist; dry salt indicates that the magnesium has been removed, because magnesium clings to water. Salt from ancient sea beds and salt mines are also not as beneficial for humans. Millions of years of rainfall through many geological layers will deplete vital minerals from these deposits and introduce other components. Most of the essential elements are driven far below the salt line, thus destroying the delicate, natural balance of mineral, gases, and moisture found in the living waters of the ocean. ( For a detailed analysis of the health aspects of salt, including its effects on hypertension, edema, and other conditions, I have more comprehensive article on my blog.)
Celtic Sea Salt is harvested annually from Brittany, the northwestern most point of France that borders the Celtic Sea. The government of France considers the region where Celtic Sea Salt is harvested a national treasure and imposes the strictest regulations to keep its resources pure. Twice daily, the ocean water that feeds the marshes is carried inland from the North Atlantic Current by 15-foot tidal waters. Celtic Sea Salt is hand harvested by the paludiers or salt farmers of Brittany the same way it has been for generations. In Portugal, similar traditions are followed by the marenotos (salt gatherers) . It takes four years to train a paludier.
During the winter months the oeillets or salt beds must be groomed to prepare for the next season’s salt crop. This process involves meticulous raking of the bottom of the oeillets. Each oeillet is lined with a natural layer of clay and sand that helps filter any debris present in the water. Before the water flows into the oeillets it is held in large settling ponds, which have their own ecosystems. Brine shrimp and a variety of plants and fish thrive in these ponds. Because these fragile organisms cannot live in polluted environments, by monitoring the health of the ecosystems the paludiers can gauge the quality of the brine in the salt fields.
In early March, the ocean water is allowed into the field for the first time in the season. This water is directed to the fields via a series of canals. The brine flows through the oeillets, which vary in number from 30 to 100. The brine settles in the fields for approximately three months before the first harvest. During this time, the salt is exposed to the sun and wind, allowing water to evaporate. The paludiers test the salt regularly at every oeillet.
Medieval reCreationists should also take note of this traditional salt! When civilizations move inland away from the ocean, many solutions are created to solve the salt problem. Some mine it in available areas as rock salt, which is different in every quarry, or bring it in from the sea directly or as kelp and other products. In much of antiquity, elaborate and impossibly long trade routes were established to carry various forms of salt all over the known world. It's one of the reasons that salt was worth it's weight in gold!
In attempting to reCreate dishes of the past, current table salt is completely inadequate to the task. Not only does the simple toxic structure of modern table salt completely change the chemical reactions of the cookery, the added iodine and "free flowing agents" change the flavour. I can always tell when someone uses table salt in cooking or baking. Even sea salt harvested for modern tastes does not have the necessary consistency. Sea salt harvested in the traditional manner has the correct ratio of constituents and is the best ingredient for replicating the taste, texture, and quality of medieval dishes.
Salt is often used in ritual and spell work. It can be for cleansing a space or object, representing the ocean itself, or as a substitute for adding blood potency to the endevour. Since blood has almost the exact same minerals components as sea salt, and is said to taste the same, the only kind of sea salt that should be used in ritual is traditionally harvested sea salt, with its natural and unaltered ratio of minerals. Table salt, as a toxin and chemical, is an abomination. Though for a simple cleansing, modern sea salt could be used in a pinch... Heh.
Traditionally harvested sea salt is a food and should be used as such. Because it has a perfect balance of the essential trace minerals and gases the body requires, in cooking or baking use only 2/3 of what the recipe calls for. Always salt to taste. Because it emulsifies oils, chefs have known for centuries that if they add oil alone to food, it becomes ‘greasy’ and indigestible but if salt is added, it breaks the bonds of the oil giving it a wonderful taste and consistency. Sprinkle it lightly over raw fruits and vegetables to aid digestion and mineral absorption. Some dissolve and drink small quantities in a glass of water, fruit or vegetable juice. Instant mineral water!
When I make my beauty products, nothing but traditionally harvested sea salt will do, of course. The natural composition is far gentler to the skin, and helps the cells regenerate and heal. I blend them with herbs and use them in the bath, in powders, and in salt scrubs to nourish my body, relax my muscles, and balance my skin.
For cooking, baking, bath salts, and beauty treatments, I never use anything other than traditionally harvested sea salt: for myself, my family, and for the Earth.
Some data from the work of Jacques DeLangre, Ph.D., Biochemist, and ‘the Salt and Grain Society, Inc.’
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