Friday, November 16, 2018

Salt shack, baby

The Atlantic coast of France is known, at least in France, for its marais salants (salt ponds). As far as I know, these are not large commercial operations, but small artisinal businesses where salt is harvested the old-fashioned way, by hand. Perhaps the most famous salt product from the region is fleur de sel, the fine top-most layer of salt crystals harvested from a pond, which is now marketed as a luxury product around the world. The most famous salt-producing area in the region is Guérande (north of where we were in October), and sel de Guérande is quite sought-after in France.

Salt ponds outside of the town of Noirmoutier-en-l'Isle (in the background).

I really can't tell one batch of salt from another, so I'm not necessarily attracted to sel de Guérande nor am I willing to pay the prices for fleur de sel. But I do see stories and documentaries about artisinal salt production on television and can appreciate what goes into it and why it's important to support those who do it. There are, of course, much larger industrial salt operations on the Mediterranean coast of France, but not here.

A salt shack, where salt is for sale. At this one, we saw a small trail peppered (get it?) with interpretive signs that explain salt production. Obviously, a tourist stop.

So, naturally, when we drove by one of the local salt ponds on the island of Noirmoutier, I wanted to stop for photos. The stand was closed when we stopped (scheduled to open later in the afternoon), but that was better for photos. We saw the typical rectilinear evaporation ponds with their little piles of harvested salt drying in the sun. The salt is gathered by hand, using a long-handled wooden tool to scrape it from the evaporating basin into piles for drying.


  1. I love the way people will pay premium prices for extra special salt, be it hand produced in France or from the Himalayas. We buy pretty pink salt to mix with white because it looks nice in the salt grinder. But at the end of the day, salt is salt and it is salt.

  2. Great photos of course but thanks for this lesson. I was buying fleur de sel scented candles from a nearby upscale shop. I liked the fragrance but could not understand the salt flower reference and they had no explanation. The candles were overpriced and only burned halfway down, so never mind!

  3. Forgot to mention, I got me a Chrysler, it seats about 20.

  4. I've been given Fleur de sel as a gift, and it is good. Sprinkled on top of juicy, medium rare steak, it's a real treat.

  5. just a funky old shack and I gotta get back

  6. I was somewhat south of there for a while last winter and was told that back in the very long-ago salt was the basis for much local wealth, which is one reason there are a lot of tiny towns with big churches and houses. Now it's not needed to preserve food, and that economy has gone.
    I'd still rather pay a bit extra for a local product and for salt that hasn't been through industrial processing.

  7. andrew, I agree.

    mitch, you're a rock lobster!

    judy, that sounds good!

    anne marie, that's where it's at!

    emm, you've heard the expression "worth his salt," I'm sure. Salt was an valuable commodity for a while.


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