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Sea salt

    Sea salt, obtained by evaporating seawater, is used in cooking and cosmetics. Historically called bay salt[1], its mineral content gives it a different taste[citation needed] from table salt, which is pure sodium chloride, usually refined from mined rock salt (halite) or from sea salt. Areas that produce specialized sea salt include the Cayman Islands; France; Ireland; Colombia; Sicily; Apulia in Italy; and Hawaii[2], Maine, Utah, the San Francisco Bay, and Cape Cod in the United States. Generally more expensive than table salt, it is commonly used in gourmet cooking and premium potato chips.


Where mineral salt has been readily obtainable it has long been mined. The salt mines of Hallstatt go back at least to the Iron Age. However, it has not been readily obtainable everywhere and the alternative coastal source has also been exploited for thousands of years. The principle of the production is the evaporation of the water from the brine of the sea. In warm and dry climates this may be done entirely by solar energy but in other climates, fuel must be used. For this reason, sea salt production is now almost entirely an industry of Mediterranean and other warm, dry climates.

The name normally used today for such places is salt works but the older English word is saltern. An ancient or medieval saltern could be established where there was:  

  • 1: Access to a market for the salt.
  • 2: A gently-shelving coast, protected from exposure to the open sea.
  • 3: A cheap and easily worked fuel supply; preferably, the sun.
  • 4: Preferably, another trade such as pastoral farming and tanning so that it and the salt could each add value to the other in the form of leather or salted meat.

In this way, salt marsh, pasture (salting), and salt works (saltern) enhanced each other economically. This was the economic pattern in the Roman and Medieval periods around The Wash, in eastern England. There, the tide brought the brine, the extensive saltings provided the pasture, the fens and moors provided the peat fuel, and the sun sometimes shone.

The dilute brine of the sea was largely evaporated by the sun and concentrated slurry of Salt, and, mud scraped up. The slurry was washed with clean sea water so that the impurities settled out of the now concentrated brine. This was poured into shallow pans lightly baked from the local marine clay, which were set on fist-sized clay pillars over a peat fire for the final evaporation. The dried salt was scraped out and sold.

See also


  1. ^ Brownrigg, William. 1748. The Art of Making Common Salt, as Now Practised in Most Parts of the World. Page 12. Retrieved 11/2007 from Google Book Search
  2. ^
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sea_salt". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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