A Harmony of Flavors

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Salt of the Earth

I recently published an article about salt; the good, the bad and the ugly.  Plain old table salt, like many other food substances we ingest daily, is mass produced and marketed after subjecting what was once a natural product to processes that leave it in a state the body doesn't even recognize as salt. The body reacts to this no-longer-salt product by rushing a water cushion to surround every particle, trying to protect the body from this unknown substance.  And meanwhile, the body is craving salt - of the real variety.

Some years back, I started having problems with leg swelling.  At least, that was where it was most noticeable, though I was swelling over most of my body.  I tried all sorts of natural diuretics, all with ingredients that would reduce swelling, and they worked, to a point.  The problem was that I kept right on using good old salt from those mass produced canisters from the grocery store, blithely unaware that this was a large part of my problem. This was back in the late 1990s, and somewhere I learned about this process our table salt is subjected to, and looked for natural sea salt as a substitute.  Sea salt was much harder to find back then, but I learned about "Real Salt", which is mined naturally in Utah, from a dried up sea bed. I ordered some and immediately noticed a difference as the swelling went down dramatically. I was just truly amazed!

These days so many varieties of good quality sea salts are available. We have orange colored Palm Island sea salt, Black Hawaiian Lava sea salt, and pink Himalayan sea salt, to name a few.  The colors are due to the many trace minerals found with the salts, and also where they are collected.  Obviously the Hawaiian Black Lava Salt is influenced by the black lava which is the entire basis of those islands. There are multitudes of countries that produce sea salt naturally, and many of these have differing crystal structures. Some are flat crystals, some are rounder and some more conical. Some are meant more as a finishing salt, to be added just before consumption, although if food is properly seasoned it needs nothing more to finish it off. 

I once purchased a box of a dozen or more tiny containers of sea salts from around the world; Israel, Great Britain, France, Australia and many other countries. In the last few years flavored salts have become available. Smoked salts, such as alder smoked (also called "Salish") or hickory smoked, have their distinct place. Others such as lemon, balsamic or chardonnay flavored salts can be used in specific dishes. 

While salt was not the only problem underlying my swelling issue, it was certainly a large contributor.  I can now buy Real Salt in the bulk bin section of my local health food store, making it far easier to keep it on hand for daily use in cooking or baking, but even before, seeing how much better I felt when using good quality salt, I would just never go back.  My husband and I got really interested in salt of many kinds, and he started finding flavored salts and smoked salts.  We had so many varieties that I finally bought this tower to have many types right at hand.  They are labeled on the other side!  I would never be able to distinguish just from looking, between some of the smoked salts, otherwise.

If swelling is an issue, or you are looking for a more natural product or just like to try new things, look for good sea salts from around the world.