The extraordinary salt of Castro Marim

Castro Marin Composit

The Romans loved salt. They used it to cook, to preserve food, and as a form of currency (the practice of paying soldiers in salt is the origin of the word salary). So, it is not surprising that the Romans settled in Castro Marim. This small town on the marshes of the Guadiana river produced great salt.

During the 20th century, this production became industrialized. The salt was harvested with heavy machinery that leaves plenty of chemical residues. It was then washed and processed to turn its grey color into white, striping the salt of magnesium, potassium, and other important minerals.

Artisanal producers abandoned their salt ponds and so did the fish and birds that used them as habitats. Centuries of knowledge about producing great salt was on the verge of being lost.

But then, the tide turned. In the late 1990s, a cooperative called Terras de Sal revived the artisanal salt trade. It invited a French certification body to establish the strictest certification norms to ensure the highest standard of quality. It created the conditions to attract a new generation of producers who left their city jobs and came to Castro Marim to produce the best salt in the world.

These producers harvest the salt manually with wooden tools, a slow process that is essential to avoid chemical contamination. They do not wash the salt, to ensure that it retains all its important minerals. Since rain muddies the water, they only harvest when the weather is dry, between May and September.

One of the cooperative’s producers is called Água Mãe. Their salt is amazingly white and flavorful. Their “fleur de sel,” made of fine crystals created by temperature differentials between water and air, is exquisite. Água Mãe also bottles liquid salt, which is low in sodium and high in magnesium. When we spray it on our salads it gives them layers of delicate flavor.

The Romans were prescient in their love of salt. An amazing fact about our bodies is that, because life began in the sea, the composition of our tissue fluid resembles that of natural sea salt.

The ordinary act of seasoning our food becomes extraordinary when we use salt from Castro Marim. It is a privilege to nourish our body with the same pristine salt prized by the Romans 2000 years ago.

You can find the Água Mãe salt store on Travessa dos 3 Marcos, n.º 11, Castro Marim, Algarve, tel. 961380503, email  aguamae@aguamae.pt . Click here for the Terras de Sal web site. To buy the wondrous salt of Castro Marim in the U.S., click here.

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “The extraordinary salt of Castro Marim

  1. Great history lesson! I have some Celtic Sea Salt and some pink salt that I used to cook with. Those trace minerals are so important! Thanks for posting about it. I’m going to reblog over on The Portugal Years. Have a great week!

  2. It is important to note that, while our “tissue fluid” composition (a very poorly defined term) may be similar to that of sea water, the salinity of sea water is much higher than that of bodily fluids like blood, which is why it is not a good idea to drink sea water.

      1. O colega tirou as palavras da minha boca… a flor de sal da “Salmarim”, em minha opinião, é a melhor que já provei. Eles tem diversos produtos, do tradicional ao inovador. Agrada-me, particularmente, a versão em cristais no formato de pequenas pirâmides, nos mesmo estilo do sal de Maldon, porém, obtido por um processo de domínio dos elementos do clima, ao invés da cocção em caldeira como fazem os ingleses.

  3. Really fascinating article. I have seen the salt being harvested from natural ponds in the south of France, but never in Portugal. I agree it is important that what we eat and drink is as pure and good quality as possible.

  4. Mom has tried the Celtic Sea Salt and the Himalayan Pink Salt, too. I find there are differences in salt (some are saltier) – but Dad says, “Salt’s salt” lol

  5. Wow, the history lessons here. Great entry, lovely pictures – and the salt sounds fabulous. Liquid salt?! Who knew!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s