Sea Salt Q&A: Common Questions about Cargill Sea Salt
Sea salt is produced by the evaporation of seawater. Sea salts tend to be coarser and grainier than traditional granulated table salt but both types of salt have the same basic nutritional value.
Q: What is sea salt?
A: Sea salt is produced by the evaporation of seawater. It is different than other types of food salts. Sea salts tend to be coarser and grainier than traditional granulated table salt. Both types of salt have the same basic nutritional value. Sea salt may retain some other minerals depending on the water source - but generally not enough to make a difference in your diet.
Q: How is sea salt washed?
A: At the wash house, the salt is dropped into a saturated brine solution to wash off any impurities. Because saturated brine is already carrying as much salt as it can hold, very little salt dissolves in the wash. The salt is moved through a series of washers and augers.
Q: How is sea salt harvested?
A: The process for harvesting sea salt today is really the same process that has been used for centuries with some food safety enhancements. We create a series of interlocking shallow ponds that utilize the sun and wind. As the water evaporates and the salt concentrates, the water is moved along the chain of ponds closer to the actual harvesting facility.
The sea water starts off with a natural salinity of about 3% and ends up at about 25% salinity. At this point, the salt starts to crystallize and can be harvested.
Q: Does sea salt ever "expire"?
A: Sea salt is one of those ingredients that never goes bad or loses its potency. As long as it remains dry – it should be good. Sea salt is an essential inorganic mineral – and as long as it is properly stored, it will retain its product properties.
Q: How does weather impact sea salt production?
A: The sea salt production environment can be fragile due to weather changes but it is often optimal in Northern California. Sea salt production is practical in climates where the evaporation rate exceeds the precipitation rate, either annually or for extended periods, and ideally, where there are steady prevailing winds.Our area’s (Newark, CA) combination of shallow topography, clay soils, and Mediterranean climate – just enough rain in the winter followed by a long dry season of steady breezes and summer sunshine are perfect for sea salt production. Rain has the potential to interrupt sea salt harvesting for up to a few days.
Q: How long does it take to produce sea salt
A: A typical solar "crop" usually takes five years to produce. Sea salt is made by channeling Pacific Ocean sea water into ponds and letting the wind and sun evaporate it naturally.
Q: Why are the sea salt ponds different colors?
A: Our salt ponds range from blue green to deep magenta – colored naturally by the microorganisms that thrive as salinity levels increase. In the low-salinity ponds, both color and microbiology match the blue green waters of San Francisco Bay. As the brines concentrate, several algae, impart a green cast to the brines. With increasing salinity, microorganism competition occurs and hues vary from pale green to bright chartreuse. About midway through the pond system, the increased salinity promotes huge populations of tiny brine shrimp, which clarify the brine and darken it. The saltiest brine appears deep red, because a specific bacteria takes over and the hypersaline brine triggers a red pigment. The algae and other microorganisms create the basis for a rich ecosystem, supporting more than a million shorebirds, waterfowl and other wildlife. At the same time, these tiny creatures regulate water quality — which promotes development of a higher quality salt. Once the salinity reaches a certain point, the microorganisms disappear.
Q: What steps have you taken to preserve this fragile environment?
A: Roughly 8,000 acres along the South San Francisco Bay are devoted to salt evaporation ponds – and all of this land is protected by the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Evaporation ponds (and the marshes that surround them) provide important habitat for more than 70 species of birds, including several endangered species.