A cultivation settled on the island
As soon as the 5th century, Benedictine monks transformed the island's humid marshes into salt marshes, by big drainage works.
Today, 3000 œillets (salt ponds) are run by approximately 100 salt makers, members of the cooperative or not, harvesting the pure “white gold” in the traditional way.
3,000 tons of sea salt are harvested in a normal year approximately, but the harvests are totally linked with the weather.
How salt constitutes itself
Sea water circulates in a network of canals and ponds meticulously taken care of. Thanks to evaporation, the concentration of salt in the water increases all along a slow path of 48 hours, going from 35 gr/litre up to 300 gr/litre. Coarse salt then crystallises and falls down at the salt ponds' clay bottom, where water comes to saturation point.
During the warmest part of summer, when the eastern wind comes up, some small crystals shimmer at the ponds' surface: it is the FLEUR DE SEL. It is then put on tables at the marshes side to dry naturally under the sun. Crystallised at the water surface, it has a unique whiteness and taste.
Salt marshes offer a huge range of natural products:
COARSE SALT or grey coarse salt: sea salt picked from the salt ponds, to be used when cooking for cooking water, for salting and for “salt crust” recipes.
FINE SALT: dried and ground coarse salt, used as table salt, seasons and lifts the dishes' taste.
FLEUR DE SEL: the marshes' nectar, it is the top chefs' salt. Placed on the table, it is sprinkled with a few pinches on vegetables, meats and fish.
SALICORNIA: herbaceous plant only growing on salty soils, it is mostly conserved in marinades. It is used as a condiment, but it can also be eaten fresh or steamed.
Traditionally harvested sea salt is unwashed and untreated. It is naturally full of minerals (magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium) and of trace elements (manganese, iron, zinc). It has exceptional nutritional qualities.