Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Salt Life

The U.S. and China dominate in world salt production, combining for 40% of the world’s quarter billion tons of salt produced each year.

Salt producers use three basic technologies to create salt for its myriad uses. Now-buried dried-up oceans of geologic ages past have left many areas, under both land and sea, with concentrated salt sedimentary layers which can exceed fifty feet in thickness. Two technologies exploit these underground deposits: conventional shaft mining where miners go underground to remove solid rock salt and solution mining where water is pumped underground dissolving the solid salt and then pumping out the salty brine which is de-watered to crystallize the salt. The third method extracts salt from oceans and saline lakes, growing salt crystals much as a farmer grows crops of vegetables or grain. Respectively, the products of these technologies are known as rock salt, evaporated salt (or vacuum pan salt) and solar (or sea) salt.

(Salt ponds from spring water in Peru)

Among the three technologies, most producers around the world are engaged in solar salt production, the least expensive technology available, when favored by a dry and windy climate. But vast quantities of rock salt are extracted in large commercial mines and chemical companies utilize an enormous amount of salt in the form of brine that never is crystallized into dry salt.

(Salt "farm" in Bolivia)

Common salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of salts; salt in its natural form as a crystallinemineral is known as rock salt or halite. Salt is present in vast quantities in seawater, where it is the main mineral constituent; the open ocean has about 35 grams (1.2 oz) of solids per litre, a salinity of 3.5%. Salt is essential for animal life, and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes. The tissues of animals contain larger quantities of salt than do plant tissues; therefore the typical diets of nomads who subsist on their flocks and herds require little or no added salt, whereas cereal-based diets require supplementation. Salt is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous of food seasonings, and salting is an important method of food preservation.

Some of the earliest evidence of salt processing dates to around 8,000 years ago, when people living in Romania were boiling spring water to extract the salts; a salt-works in China has been found which dates to approximately the same period. Salt was prized by the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Hittites and the Egyptians. Salt became an important article of trade and was transported by boat across the Mediterranean Sea, along specially built salt roads, and across the Sahara in camel caravans. The scarcity and universal need for salt has led nations to go to war over salt and use it to raise tax revenues. Salt is also used in religious ceremonies and has other cultural significance.

(China, but could definatly be Ecuador, note that some have gloves, and others are barefoot)

Salt is produced from salt mines or by the evaporation of seawater (sea salt) or mineral-rich spring water in shallow pools. Its major industrial products are caustic soda and chlorine, and it is used in many industrial processes and in the manufacture of polyvinyl chlorideplasticspaper pulp and many other products. Of the annual production of around two hundred million tonnes of salt, only about 6% is used for human consumption; other uses include water conditioning processes, de-icing highways and agricultural use. Edible salt is sold in forms such as sea salt and table salt which usually contains an anti-caking agent and may be iodised to prevent iodine deficiency. As well as its use in cooking and at the table, salt is present in many processed foods.

Which brings me to my post, the other day we were taking advantage of the overcast morning and walking the neighborhoods off the main road, here is a picture of the salt farm.

In doing my research, I found that Negra sal has a higher sulphur and mineral content that gives it a different and unique flavor. I'd never heard of it before, but after reading all this info on salt, who knew much of it?

Ecuador had so much salt it used to use it as currency, until the spaniards came with their gold. I found it also interesting that "free range" animals get more salt in their diet than "farmed" livestock, hence we don't use as much table salt here. Table salt is rarely on the table in the restaurants, and we found we usually don't need any, they season everything so well, salt just isn't needed. Between the fresh seafood and its natural salinity, and the free range pollo, chuleta (pork) or carne (beef) life is delicious and lower in sodium! 

Hope you enjoyed my little post on the salty side of life, stay tuned...the adventure continues!

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