sea salt production

Snow in Mexico?

Snow in Mexico?  Not hardly.  This is salt.  Pure, beautiful, delicious sea salt.  As salt was meant to be. 

These are the salt flats in Guerrero Negro by Ojo De Liebre (a lagoon famous for its winter-months whale watching, when the grey whales come to have their babies – a post about that time i got to TOUCH A WHALE will follow shortly)

Sea salt harvesting is a long tradition in Baja, Mexico.  A combination of the shallow shoreline, long,  hot sun-filled days, even temperatures and strong coastal winds create the perfect environment for harvesting sea salt.

We had to drive through miles of sea salt ponds to get to our campsite. The ponds were clearly blocked off with “No Entre” signs but I couldn’t help it, I had to get out and taste pure, fresh from the ocean sea salt. 

The salt was coarse, crunchy and moist at the same time.  When I put a few grains in my mouth, it popped, it had the salty bite you would expect but far richer and it didn’t overstay its welcome. 

In short, it was like no other salt I’ve ever had in my entire life...

I had to find out more about how this salt is produced, and where I could get more of it.
 
We found out that the process for harvesting sea salt on this commercial level is really a scaled-up version of how sea salt has been harvested in Mexico for centuries. It is an almost completelynatural process.  They create a series of interlocking shallow ponds, fed from the lagoon that are exposed to the sun and wind. As the water evaporates and the salt concentrates, the water is moved along the chain of ponds closer to the harvesting area.


The sea water starts off with a natural salinity of about 3% and ends up at about 25% salinity. At this point, the salt starts to crystallize and can be harvested. Get this: the whole process takes about five years!

Once it's ready for harvesting, a truck with a rake attachment breaks up the salt bed. A harvester comes along to scoop up the salt and transfers it to dump trucks, which then carry the salt to the washing facility.   We had noticed that along some of the ponds was what appeared to be a reddish mud.  This is the brine, shrimp and microscopic ocean life from the water.  Before final harvest, the salt is rinsed to wash out calcium and any other impurities, and then in actual lagoon water to dissolve the magnesium chloride. What you're left with is 99.8% pure  sea salt.

Knowing I didn’t want to ever go back to eating store bought salt, we asked the guard (who was spending his time making beautiful sculptures out of larger salt crystals – I wanted to take his picture but he seemed to be an extremely shy older man and I didn’t want to be disrespectful) where we could buy some of the salt from the flats.  He directed us towards town where we found stands selling pineapple, mango, papaya, guava, sugar cane candies and yes, sea salt!

 

Baja is nothing if not random. And amazing.  One day you are sitting on the beach watching whales breach close to shore and other days you find yourself sneaking out of your car to taste snowy mounds of natural sea salt.  Sometimes those are the same days.  Hard not to love it.