I love you as much as I love salt, said the Princess.
Not knowing better, the king then expelled her.
Ayurveda allows us to dream of yoga, traveling in India, Maharajas and health. The daily pinch of Ayurveda, is doubtless Himalayan salt. A delicate pink and finely ground, it is a treasure from A Thousand and One Nights. Our associations keep wandering: to caves where yogis live, whose age is anyone’s guess, to lofty mountain peaks, eternally covered in pure and clean snow. Himalayan salt is packaged in painted boxes and sold as ‘magic salt’ or ‘Hunza crystal salt’. Sold at organic food stores in small amounts that seem to suggest a certain value, they really just serve to justify their higher price. However, according to various sources of information the actual salt mining doesn’t take place in the Himalayas – the world’s highest mountain range! Rather, the salt mainly comes from a salt mine in the Punjab province, more that 250 kilometers southwest from the Himalayan foothills. It’s an important salt mine and Pakistan manages a large part of it. It is the second largest salt mine in the world. Salt has been mined here since the 16th century. Is this not impressive enough?
The fact that a small part of the pink salt comes from Poland, is another instance in the realm of illusions. Who could have guessed? Does it make the salt less meaningful? Is Poland’s esotericism a lesser grade of Karma? Is it less healthy?
Why the false labelling? I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed by this scam that seems to me malicious and simply goes unnoticed in the whole growing scene of health-conscious Yoga practitioners. The Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety even went further. They examined a sample and found polyhalite, a plaster, in the salt. The mineralogist Siemann stated: “the salt’s chemical composition does not differ in any way from other natural stone salts. Compared to regular kitchen salt, the only difference is that it contains more contaminates.”
What about the pretty pink colour?
Is that not at least some indication that it’s something special? In addition to the 98% percent sodium chloride, they found sulfate and potassium chloride, meaning the colour is the result of contamination with iron oxide. There are no health benefits to derive from it. It’s aggressive market strategy can only be explained by it being 20 times more expensive than normal salt.
Maybe people use less of it because it’s so expensive and that makes it healthier? On The Contrary! They even recommend drinking salt water for prophylaxis and healing. Advertising the use of salt water – in large chunks of Himalayan salt mixed in water – as a remedy for various diseases, is dangerous. Our regular diet already has sufficient salt content and a high dose for that matter. Any kind of salt compromises our health through stress on the kidneys and blood pressure. I do however prescribe salts to inhale because salt, unlike herbs, don’t pose any risk of allergies, while keeping mucous membranes well moisturized.
So what to do? Sea salt? That sounds good!
Sea salt too has a magical character. A re-association, so that we literally hear the cries of the seagulls on the bag. Sea salt is created by weathering – the weathering of rocks. It is essentially identical to the rock salt many purists consider inferior. The salt content in seawater generally averages around 3.5%, with exceptions such as the Dead Sea with 28%, and the Baltic Sea with only 1.2%. In many countries, salt marshes are designed in such a way that the water evaporates in shallow pools while the salt accumulates. Seawater salt, produced solely through the evaporation of water, makes up the smallest percentage of salts in the world market. Mostly, we find gray salt, which is sold in various crystal sizes. It’s contaminated with suspended solids of a type of algae as well as sediments such as clay. As a result it contains more silicates. But the dream of the sea, of expanses and vacations, lives on. Normally, we wouldn’t compulsively strain our food with clay.
Fleur de Sel is so refined and expensive that we always bring it as a gift from our house in France. The taste charms even those who barely eat salt. Salt is always risky, and if it sits in a precious bowl on the table, so snow white and pure like a gift from nature, then it has to be good! Together with pumpkin seeds and walnut oil on freshly baked bread! What a treat! Hangovers often don’t come from wine, but from overdosing on salt in generous quantities.
As it happens, Fleur de Sel can really only be extracted from a handful of regions in the world. Brittany (Guerande and Noirmoutier), Ile de Re and Camargue harvest it, Mallorca and Ibiza have it, as well as Slovenia (Sel de Piranske). It is extracted through painstaking labour on windless days on the top of the brine in salt marshes. This is the first, paper-thin layer on the surface. It’s only on rare days, when the weather is right, that the finer crystals can be harvested. But they are very fragile and on top of that, still contain a relatively high percentage of water. Again, the crystals contain 97% sodium chloride, usually a little acid salt and potassium chloride. But the size of the crystals is interesting and serves to explain their truly unparalleled taste. Our taste buds get more out of the salty taste when it’s sprinkled as is, rather than when it ends up in a soup. Everything tastes bland without salt. Salt makes us spoiled.
Neither sea salt nor Fleur de Sel contain iodine or iodide in any significant amounts of medical interest. Every sea salt is also subject to purification processes for environmental safety. This is something we are blind to when our purchase is overcome by fantasies of the sea. The appalling pollution of our seas! The fish dying, the oil spill catastrophes and radioactive sea water. So much so that certain Japanese products can no longer be put on the market (at least not for export with us, but still in Japan).
The answer? Any salt goes!
What counts in terms of it being good for us is the amount used rather than whether it’s Himalayan, sea salt, saline or mine, salt lake or road salt. It should be used in moderation and appreciated for the historical role it plays in the enjoyment of food, a role over which wars have been fought and trade routes created. Let us not forget that India’s independence began with Gandhi’s legendary salt march, in which he went to the coast with thousands of people in order to demonstrate India’s right to its own salt. The British had banned salt extraction and it was highly taxed yet so necessary for survival in those hot regions. A few grains of salt marked the beginning of a massive civil disobedience which changed the world.
That’s indeed something magical as well!