Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fleur de Sel

Salt: Its preservative powers make it an absolute necessity of life and a virtual synonym for live-giving sources.

Fresh harvested sea salt, le fleur de sel, processed and bottled by my Anonymous Roommate.

On August 14th we introduced our new roommate to Celestún and cruised the salt flats. When we visited the area in March there were extensive salt deposits on the beach which resembled soap bubbles. This time we noticed mountains of harvested salt piled around the flats, but the salt on the beach was not as prominent. While researching the salt flats I found this link about Celestún, which I think is full of great information.

Anonymous roommate was on a mission: to harvest and produce fleur de sel, French for 'flower of salt'. Top of the line sea salt! The clean fresh patch pictured below appealed to her. She took off her shoes to walk in the water and quickly learned about the HEAT generated by the solar evaporation process. She jumped back into her shoes - her feet on fire. The ground was as hot as fresh lava. Maybe THAT was why the water was so red, I thought, it's actually on fire.

Anonymous roommate had researched sea salt and carefully picked out the best area to harvest.
After she burned her feet, Pablo went in to get her fresh near-boiling sea water....
Meanwhile I decided to grab some salt, but I found it more convenient to take it from this big pile.

Look at these chunks of salt! Mikey likes 'em!
Once home, anonymous roommate boiled the sea salt in the sea water for two hours. Once it looked like erupting volcanoes, she scraped the top white crystalline layer and put it on a fine screen in the sun. Dried, crushed and filtered, the final product was bottled for our use at home, and the completion of the process made her very happy.

Before I posted these photos, I wanted to do some research on salt. I found out I knew less about it than I'd thought. We used sea salt in Hawaii, but it was orange because of the clay soil, and very chunky. I learned how popular sea salt is when I came across this blog.
I found out about the extra vitamins and minerals found in freshly harvested sea salt. Regular table salt is so highly processed that nutrients are added back to it, like iodine. Refined salt is bad for us, but evidently we can use all the sea salt we can tolerate and live happily and healthily ever after, never to be burdened by high blood pressure, diabetes, gastritis, or any other ills again! Now that we know, we'll go directly to the source for la flor de we ever need an excuse to go to Celestún.
On a final note, the water is not red because it is hot like lava. It is red because of its high salt and algae content. On one of our guided tours of the biosphere I was told the water was red because of the red mangrove. I have since learned that this red algae grows in water with the highest salt content. The mangroves, red, black and green, all contribute to this specific algae growth and produce a large amount of tannin, but mangrove itself does not cause red water. While the assumption that the flamingos are colored by the carotene in the water is correct, the tidbit about the red mangrove having anything to do with it is completely false.


Linda Dorton said...

Well, there is still the part about the red mangrove giving off tannins in the water which might have something to do with the growth of the red algae....and all because I wanted to know why flamingos are pink.

Nancy said...

Very cool post, Lindi. Colima state near Manzanillo is one of the big salt places on the west coast and I buy a half dozen bags every time I am down there.

I have wondered whether they could combine salt harvest and a desalinization plant to produce fresh water?

Linda Dorton said...

Nancy, that might be some fun research.

Glad you liked the post, and we are all enjoying the good sea salt. I buy sea salt at the store but hadn't really thought about it being so processed.

Islagringo said...

What fun! I suppose you have to boil it in salt water to keep it from dissolving?

Linda Dorton said...

I am not sure about boiling it in the salt water. Pros and cons.

It doesn't dissolve though, I have some littler rocks I brought back in March and they are still in tact.

It is a fun ongoing project, and healthy too. It reminds me how much there is still to learn about this crazy life.

norm said...

One of my beach books this past summer was SALT A WORLD HISTORY by Mark Kurlansky, I caught a lot of flack for being a boring guy. If you are interested in salt, it covers it pretty well. Your sea salt was covered, with reference to Yucatan and the Maya salt and sea trade.