The artisanal crafting of sea salts has been part of indigenous life for peoples around the world for thousands of years. Each group has differing views about the impact or importance of the salt crafted or collected but for each and every one of them, the primary belief was the same… the salt they crafted or collected was synonymous with life itself. It was used not only in religious ceremonies, but for the preserving of foods.
In today’s modern technological age we are a far cry from the hunter-gatherer cloth or leather loined days of collecting salt from beach eddy’s that harbored one of the most important substances for sustaining life. But, does that mean that we should be any less affected? Hardly.
For one group of Polynesians, known as kanaka oiwi (or native hawaiian) the occurrence of sea salt crystal on the shore was considered sacred. The salt was collected with great care and used in rituals year round.
Religious beliefs shaped their view of the importance of the salt. Some still believe that it doesn’t occur simply because red clay or finely ground charcoal from a local local lava flow or even ground up seaweed had simply been washed into the tidal pools by the most recent rains and then trapped to dry there. This fact remains…these hawaiian sea salts are still special today.
For years it was impossible to import Hawaiian sea salt to the mainland because of the strong beliefs of the kanaka oiwi about the sacredness of their salt. But over time, it became apparent how and why the salts peculiar to the Hawaiian Islands came to be and processes for duplicating production were developed.
We still have the indigenous people to thank for their strong efforts to treasure such unique sea salts, and we appreciate the ability to enjoy these culinary delights. People with strong connections to the land they live on often protect some of the best culinary secrets.
Beware of imposters though! Many would try to pass off white sea salt with red alaea clay ground into it as being the same as the aforementioned salt with the clay actually in it rather than on it! Whether you find yourself in the Hawaiian Islands, Tahiti, Japan, Australia, France or even in the Mediterranean area of Sicily you’ll find the art of salt crafting alive and well. Some things just can’t be found locally, but that doesn’t mean they are somehow less valuable. Do yourself a favor and find out what the indigenous peoples of the world have known for centuries…sea salt is a vital part of life!