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Salt marshes on Noirmoutier island

The Salt Marshes

The salt marshes, Noirmoutier IslandThe salt marshes cover 1/3 of the island, on the cities of Noirmoutier-en-l'île and l'Épine. This can be explained by the development of the “white gold” trade in the 16th and 18th centuries, major advantage for the island's economy until the 1970's. After a declining period (34 salt makers in 1990), the renew is now guaranteed by young salt makers, a hundred today.

 The salt is harvested by hand, in the respect of traditions. The sea water circulates in a network of canals and ponds meticulously maintained, up until the œillet (a pond created by the salt maker, with a clay bottom, smooth and bulging in its centre, where the salt builds up).

 A salt maker in the salt marshes, Noirmoutier Island

 

Thanks to the evaporation, the concentration of salt intensifies throughout a slow path lasting 48 hours; it goes from 35 gr/litre to 300gr/litre. Under the action of the sun, the water comes to saturation point. The salt crystallises and covers the pond's clay bottom. With a precise and regular gesture, the salt maker lightly pulls the coarse salt to the pond's side using an ételle: wooden shelf attached to a long stick.

 

Salt in the salt marshes, Noirmoutier Island

 

The small piles thus created are called mulons, and they punctuate the blue of the salt marshes with their whiteness.

 During the warmest part of summer, when the eastern wind comes up, some small crystals shimmer at the ponds' surface. Softly grabbed with the lousse (a kind of skimmer), it is the fleur de sel. It is then put into baskets to dry naturally under the sun. Crystallised at the water surface, it has a unique whiteness and taste.

 

Visiting the salt marshes, Noirmoutier-en-l'île l'Epine

 

 

 

The salt marshes can be visited all summer long and at the beginning of autumn; the numerous salt huts along the roads attract the curious ones. You will find there fleur de sel, fine salt, coarse salt and salicornia directly sold by the producers.

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