Sea Dust, pt 2

It was fascinating to follow João Navalho's transformation of a microalgae field to traditional salt harvesting ponds in Portugal. What was originally a salt pond was converted to microalgae in anticipation of supplying natural orange dye for the organic food market. Later, as the market's interest dwindled, the site became a dumping ground for residential waste. It dawned on him to return the site to its former glory of salt production. In salt production, there are really only two economically viable models: industrial-grade and boutique. Navalho's farm in Olhão (southern tip of Portugal) offers the later boutique model.

The holy grail of salt prodction is flor de sal, or "flower of salt." This is hand-harvested salt, using 2000 year old techniques, by skimming the top surface before salt falls to the bottom of large solar pans. This speciality salt is typically found in Brittany, though the Algarve / Olhão region has gained recognition more recently. In Brittany, the Guérande salt pans are the largest fluer-du-sel producer with several hundred smaller pans. This area has been harvesting salt since the mid-800s, as a result of the natural retreat of the Atlantic and resulting floodable pools.

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