flor de sal

Thursday’s Special : Estival

I’ve always meant to tell the story of Flor de Sal, so much a part of summer here in the Algarve.  A walk through the salt marshes is one of the joys of summer, though you do have to pick your days as it can be unbearably hot.  A hint of breeze can make all the difference.

The pink colouration, from crill, especially transfixes the eye.  The fusion of sunshine and salt water creates the salt crystals, which need high temperature and strong sunshine with only gentle winds.  This year conditions have been perfect and it’s a very good harvest.

The process starts around April, when the tanks are prepared.  Mud and clay has hardened over the years and a first channel of salt water is fed in with the tide, to a good depth.  The system of tanks or reservoirs are connected with locks and channels, and gradually the saltwater is transferred to increasingly shallow tanks, warming the water in the process.  Finally it reaches the crystallisation tanks where, from June to August, ‘flor de sal’ is formed.  The fragile crystals form on the saltwater surface.  Harvesting is done by hand, the ‘marnotos’ being highly skilful in collecting the crystals, which must never touch the bottom of the pans.  They are raked gently off and left to dry in the hot sun for 7 days, where they become more crunchy, and identifiable as the ‘flor de sal’ which is sold in the markets.  Their appearance through a microscope is like a flower.  Just one more miracle of summer.

Many thanks to Paula, at Thursday’s Special, for the inspiration.