top of page

8 Salty facts

There are few household supplies more useful than salt. It’s not just a mandatory ingredient in the kitchen; it’s also a garden helper, skin exfoliator, brass polisher, ice melter, and much more. We started using salt to keep our food fresh eons before refrigeration existed. Many spiritual traditions even use it to banish or ward off evil spirits. This is all to say: We would be absolutely lost without it, or at least out of jerky. Let these eight facts about salt add a bit of seasoning to your day.

You need salt to live

There are few household supplies more useful than salt. It’s not just a mandatory ingredient in the kitchen; it’s also a garden helper, skin exfoliator, brass polisher, ice melter, and much more. We started using salt to keep our food fresh eons before refrigeration existed. Many spiritual traditions even use it to banish or ward off evil spirits. This is all to say: We would be absolutely lost without it, or at least out of jerky. Let these eight facts about salt add a bit of seasoning to your day.

Salt has been harvested for about 8,000 years

Salt is both delicious and essential, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that humans have been collecting it for thousands of years. In 2004, researchers in Romania found a salt collection well that was later carbon-dated to the early Neolithic period, somewhere between 6050 and 5500 BCE.

Ancient Egyptians used salt to preserve the dead

Ancient Egyptians used a mummification process to preserve dead bodies, now known as mummies. Specially trained priests removed all excess moisture to prevent decay, and were so successful that we can still see their work thousands of years later. After removing the organs, these priests would pack the body in natron — a sodium salt compound also used in cooking and medicine — inside and out, and wait for it to dry out before washing off the salt and wrapping the body in linen.

Himalayan salt gets its color from iron and other minerals

Himalayan salt is harvested from salt mines in Pakistan. Unlike standard table salt, or even sea salt, it has a rosy color that’s highly sought-after for both lamps and kitchen tables, but its cult following isn’t because of the color alone — it’s what causes the color, too. The salt contains trace minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. But while it looks pretty, there’s no evidence that it’s any healthier (or unhealthier) than table salt, especially since there are far more abundant sources of those minerals in most people’s diets.

People have gone to war over salt

Throughout history, salt has been considered a precious commodity — so much so that several wars have broken out over salt mining, selling, and taxation. A few notable examples include a 14th-century war between Venice and Padua over a Venetian salt monopoly, a 16th-century revolt against the Papal Army by the city of Perugia over salt pricing, and a 19th-century conflict between Mexican Americans, who had long been using a salt flat as communal property when it was part of Mexico, and a cadre of white American businessmen who decided to lay claim to it.

Gandhi led a massive national protest over salt

Mahatma Gandhi is famous for his use of nonviolent protest against British rule in India. One of his biggest efforts was the Salt March in March and April of 1930. Through a series of laws, Great Britain had made it illegal for Indian people to sell or even produce their own salt, forcing them to buy expensive and heavily taxed salt from Britain. He started his 240-mile walk from his ashram near Ahmedabad with a group of followers on March 12, stopping at different villages and picking up more people on the way to Dandi, a town on the Arabian Sea, where he intended to make salt from the seawater there. By the time they reached their destination, the crowd had grown to tens of thousands. The coastline was full of naturally occurring salt deposits, and police, knowing the crowd was coming, had stomped them into the mud — but Gandhi picked a small lump from the beach, which was enough to break the law. Salt-making as civil disobedience spread throughout India, and around 60,000 people were arrested by British authorities as a result.

Salt and Salary have the same root word

Salt” in Latin is sal, which eventually grew into both “salt” and “salary” in English. Roman soldiers were given an allowance for salt purchase — a salārium. That eventually made its way into Anglo-French as salarie, which was, in turn, borrowed into English as “salary.” Just a fun fact to remember the next time you use your salary to buy salt.

Sea turtles cry out excess salt

If you look closely, you may notice a sea turtle crying when it comes ashore. It’s not because it’s sad — it’s because their bodies take in more salt from the sea than they can excrete in their urine. They have a gland in each eye that excretes salt into their tears. It’s always working, but it only looks like tears outside the water. Some butterflies in the western Amazon, low on reliable sources of sodium, gather around river turtles and drink their tears, too.

27 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page