© https://fleurdeselfrommanigreece.wordpress.com/

Made in Greece
Fleur de Sel
The White Gold of Mani

The history of salt is intertwined with the history of human civilization. From the ancient times, salt was used as a preservative that helped people preserve food supplies for a long time, especially in the winter months. Underground salt reserves were generated from the evaporation of the ocean million years ago. It is strange enough that regions that once were sea resulted into mountains due to geological realignments of the Earth such as the salt plateau in Bolivia and the salt mining area in the Himalayas.In the beginning, people used to extract salt from the sea, the salt marches, with the evaporation of water. Archaeological excavations in France and Germany brought to light ancient devices that used to isolate the salt (rock salt) while great mines existed in Libya, Arabia and Spain. Indeed, salt is one of the most essential elements for humanity, as it had an important place in the lives of people including their religion and traditions. The Romans used salt as a currency for selling slaves in exchange of salt and making purchases and sales with salt pieces. Its value was great, as the English word salary derives from the Latin «salarium» that means payment with salt. On the other hand, Asian countries exchanged the weight of salt in gold, a justification for many wars that took place in order to conquer saline territories. Although salt is widely distributed in nature, wars happened for the monopoly of salt’s control, particularly during the Roman and Venetian times. Quite interesting is the fact that the price of salt increased six times from the original price from the 15th until the 18th century. As salt was recognized as an important material production, tax revenues were introduced, traditionally known as the salt tax in Europe. Evidence of this is that the one third of the estimated revenue of the Bavarians came from the taxation of salt! In Ancient Greece, salt was a symbol of friendship and solidarity, a way to seal their agreements, while it was also used as an offering to the Gods. Nonetheless, the history of salt is lost in the mists of time since few historical reference exist. Hippocrates, though, first recognized the therapeutic value of salt in treating diseases. Although it may seem strange, there are many different kinds of salt used in cooking. Their differences lie in their content of trace minerals, origin and size of the grains. Often, the salt types bear the name of the source area, such as Salt from the French Seas or the Hawaiian Salt, or the product specifications, such as salt powder for popcorn or salt coarse for pretzel pastries. The use of salt has conquered great chefs from all around the world while gourmet markets and spice shops are overwhelmed from salts of various types and origin as a whole new world of flavors emerged. One of the most distinct types of salt is the salt from the rocks, which dries naturally from the sun and the wind in rock cavities, and has not undergone any further alteration, maintaining its minerals and trace elements. This is a traditional technique that is passed from generation to generation. Its collection takes place from June to September, and the entire process is laborious often painful, since the rocks burn from the sun. The harvest of salt, however, takes time, as salt water is gathered in natural cavities and evaporates slowly. Therefore, a layer of salt is formed that is harvested with a special wooden tool. Afterwards, the salt dries without additional components, and is placed in glass jars. Old salt producers, renowned as “alykarioi”, irrigated rocks, on a daily basis, filling and refilling the natural cavities. Today, technology has changed things, and filling the cavities is easy and fast with small pumps. According to salt producers, 100 kilos of seawater produce two kilos of salt, depending on the weather conditions. In Greece, this traditional technique is being used from seven to eight people in the salt village of Hotasia of Mani, where once an entire village was dependent from the salt production. The rocks in Thalames region earn six tons of crude salt in an annual basis, which is considered one of the best salts in the Mediterranean. The sea salt of the cave area in Mani have been used for almost 100 years, and the three large rocks at the foot of Taygetos Mountain, have many natural salt lakes; this is the reason that the sea salt from Mani has been baptized as the white gold of Mani. In the past, salt production was illegal since the distribution was taking place exclusively from the Greek Monopoly, since the Greek State took a loan from England, which was not able to pay it back. For this reason, an international audit for oil, cigarettes, matches and salt was introduced (1911 – 1959), so that these types of goods could only be sold from special government shops called “Monopolies” with a special tax for the payoff of the loan. Although the salt marches were public property, the Mani residents had splitted the rocks as fields. According to the unwritten laws of Mani, every family owned a piece of public rocky coastline for the product of salt, and everyone respected that informal property since ancient times. Today, though, only the residents of Hotasia continue this wonderful tradition, and produce seven to eight tons of salt, which they sell for 3 euros per kilo to reach specialized shops, supermarkets and delicatessens. Two points of sales include the pastry shops of “Xypolitas” and “Glykia Mani” (0030.27330.51022) in Areopoli.

The images of the article are copyrighted from Fleur de Sel from Mani Greece & Mani Voice !