We use it every day, we - well those in the northern world - wash it off our cars all winter and some of us even brush our teeth with it. Yes salt, in what ever form, is a product we consume daily.
Ever wondered where sea salt comes from? The sea or ocean of course. But until I saw the evaporation ponds in Puerto Sandino, Nicaragua I never really thought of sea salt that way. Don't know why because it is right in the name.
In countries where salt water is easily available evaporation ponds can be seen dotted along the shoreline. These large specially lined ponds are built in succession so the brine can be moved along from one to another as the brine evaporates. This, along with proper maintenance of the brine assures maximum quality and quantity of the salt reclaimed.
Careful extraction of the salt is crucial. This must be done by hand using the wooden paddle-like tool pictured above. Salt that forms on the bottom of the pond is very consistent and compact. As it is harvested it is piled up at the end of the crystallizers to dry in the sun.
On exceptionally hot days with a moderate breeze a thin layer of salt known as the "flower of salt" will form along the surface. This "flower" is very fragile and must be carefully harvested before it sinks. It also is collected and left to dry in the sun, however it is put into containers first.
Here in Nicaragua this procedure is done during the dry season, typically from November to April. With the heat from the sun the process takes between 3 to 5 days.
Interestingly after the salt and flower of salt is harvested, washing and artificial drying is not permitted. As a consequence, the other salts associated with NaCl are also maintained.
Although not a large salt producer on the world scene, Nicaragua generates 30,000 metric tons of sea salt each year. This provides much needed seasonal work to many.
After the salt has been removed from the brine, many minerals such as magnesium, potassium, bromine and other sodium compounds remain. This process requires additional flooding and can take up to 5 years to complete.