Pass the Salt

We are currently living in Torrevieja, Spain which is surrounded by two beautiful natural salt-water lagoons, the de La Mata and the Torrevieja.  These two very large lagoons have been declared natural reserves which mean they receive protected status from the government of Spain, and are considered Europe’s largest salt lakes producing in excess of 800,000 tons of salt a year.  These lakes are also home to over 200 species of migratory birds including the pink flamingo.

Salt has been extracted from this area as far back as the 15th Century and may have helped to fund the travels of Christopher Columbus but mass salt production began in earnest around 1802.

The salt produced here has been known to help lessen the severity of such medical problems as arthritis, asthma and rheumatism and this area is regarded by the World Health Organization as having one of the healthiest climates in Europe which helps to explain the large number of expats who vacation and retire here.

The salt travels from the collection point near the lakes on this conveyor belt to the waiting barges which will transport the salt to other countries all over the EU and even to the US.  It takes 5 days to fill a barge with salt.  This conveyor operates 24/7.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The salt travels from the collection point near the lakes on this conveyor belt to the waiting barges which will transport the salt to other countries all over the EU and even to the US. It takes 5 days to fill a barge with salt. This conveyor operates 24/7. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

One of the unique things to happen here in Torrevieja is the making and selling of ‘salt crafts’.  Artisans build models and forms to create these amazing works of art.  These pieces are then submerged in the salt lakes during the months of May and June when the salt concentration is highest and it is the time of ‘setting’.  It is during these months when the days are longest and evaporation rates are at their peak which aids in the crystallization process.  Salt concentration is so high that these pieces only need to be submerged for three days and when removed they have been completely crystallized in salt.  These salt crafts are highly prized and considered valuable gifts and of course real works of art.

The models are submerged in the salt water for 3 days and when they are removed they are covered in sea salt.  They are encased in glass and sold as works of art.    © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The models are submerged in the salt water for 3 days and when they are removed they are covered in sea salt. They are encased in glass and sold as works of art. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

The salt sculptures come in a variety of shapes which is why they are considered such great works of art.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The salt sculptures come in a variety of shapes which is why they are considered such great works of art. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Since salt production is such a big part of the history of Torrevieja there is a Salt Museum which has quite a nice collection of items pertaining to life in Torrevieja and of the salt production.  It is worth a visit when touring around the city.

The Museum of Salt located in Torrevieja, Spain.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Museum of Salt located in Torrevieja, Spain. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

So the next time you have occasion to ‘pass the salt’ or to throw rock salt on your driveway think about where that salt might have come from.  The package might have been bought at your local hardware or grocery store but the salt might have come from some far away place, just like Torrevieja.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

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