May 28, 2010 > Salt - Impact of a crystal
Salt - Impact of a crystal
By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Doris Nikolaidis
Herein is a true tale, a saga of soup. Two friends went out to dinner and both ordered soup. When it arrived, each tasted his soup and found it too, too salty. Next step, tell the waiter. Soup goes back to the kitchen. The cooks sampled spoonfuls of soup taken from the pot. Yes, indeed, it was way too salty. The cooks in the kitchen numbered three, so the cause was clear. Each separately, and unknown to the others, had seasoned the soup. The moral of this tale is "too many cooks spoil the broth."
The salt crystal, predictably, comes from seawater. Portions of the world were covered with saltwater some 400 million years ago. Climate changes caused layering as salt and other mineral deposits were covered with sediments.
Evidence shows ancient man hunted animals that came to salt springs. Salt mines luckily were discovered and the value of salt recognized. The Chinese, some 4,000 years ago, pioneered in salt production, sinking bamboo pipes deep into the earth, extracting and boiling the brine. As hunger for salt increased, Romans used slaves and prisoners for the hazardous mining. This practice continued into the 20th century in Russia and Nazi Germany.
Salt, the only edible mineral has quite a history. A crystalline solid, it has been around at least 4,700 years. The Peng-Tzao-Kan-Mu, an ancient writing on pharmacology dating back to 2700 B.C., detailed over 40 types of salt. It described two methods of salt extraction, and the conversion to a useable form is comparable to those used today.
Today mining is the primary method of extraction. The other method is practiced locally. Cargill Salt operates a large salt refinery in Newark and uses a solar method in the salt evaporation ponds near San Francisco Bay.
This crystal, now, is processed first for a seasoning, but multi-uses exist. It is an effective preservative. Think of pickles, prosciutto, and salt fish. Epsom salts benefit muscle aches. Rock salt de-ices roads in cold climes. Salt is used for homemade play dough.
Americans have a salt habit. According to recent studies, the average daily salt consumption exceeds 3,000 milligrams. The USDA's guidelines suggest 2,400 mgs or less daily, which is about one teaspoon. Healthier choices are parsley, rosemary, mustard powder, and, of course, pepper. Garlic, chopped onion, and lemon juice also enhance foods' flavor.
Explore these other options to salt and find your favorite that proves "worth its salt."