Ever flown into San Francisco and wondered about those brightly colored ponds at the base of the bay? I sure have, assuming the worst. But they are salt evaporation ponds and the colors are caused by algae, different kinds at different salinity levels.
Besides being an excellent flavor enhancer, salt has been used to preserve meat and fish for thousands of years. The word salary comes from salarium, salt being part of Roman soldiers’ pay. There have been salt wars, salt laws, salt taxes, salt trading, salt rites. The stuff is and has been elementally essential to us.
We are saline. Our bodies contain about a half pound of salt. But the association with health dangers came from the fact that salt intake temporarily increases blood pressure. As hypertension and heart disease increased among westerners, the campaign against salt began. Recently, meta analyses and even more studies are still not able to prove a link between salt and increased risk of death. And as salt licks would prove, other creatures need it too.
Salt is produced in three different ways, and as with other things, most of it by China and U.S.. Solar or sea salt is naturally evaporated from sea water; rock salt is mined from underground deposits – ancient sea beds; evaporated salt is obtained from a process like fracking, with laterally drilled wells and water pumped into them, forcing brine to the surface and into building-sized vacuum vessels, where the salt is evaporated mechanically.
All salts are not equal, besides their being sodium chloride. Common table salts have other ingredients, such as iodine and anti-caking agents. Salts of culinary interest such as fleur de sel and himalayan salts contain other minerals, are less refined, and have different colors, textures and flavors. For those with sensitive salt buds, there’s a whole world out there.