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Precious Salt – a spice, as valuable as gold

3 min read

"I father, love you ... like salt!" Said the youngest daughter of the king, who was so outraged that he decided: "I will only see you again when salt will appear more valuable to people than gold and precious stones."

 

High Salt Hills

It is actually no wonder that the king of this Slovak fairy tale found the comparison with salt to be an evil - a pound of this spice costs less than 15 cents today. However, this was not always the case, because there were once devastating wars over the white gold, people were exploited and whoever had it acquired power and wealth.

Even the ancient Romans tried to extract the mineral from the sea water with salt gardens. This type of salt production was very complex, so that salt became an expensive commodity. In the interior of the country, however, salt mines were opened, so that one had to dig deep to get the coveted white gold. The oldest known salt mine is located in the Austrian Alps, in the small town of Hallstadt. The Celts mined salt there some 3,000 years ago. Since people did not yet know that salt was hidden almost everywhere under the earth, it was transported across Europe via far trade routes. The Romans even paid their soldiers with salt. This also proves the name salär, which comes from the Latin “sal” for salt. Furthermore it was used to disinfect wounds.

The Chinese already knew in 3000 BC that salt is not only a vital mineral for the body, but also makes food last longer. Today this type of preservation is known as pickling. And since the salt was scarce at the time, it was mixed with a wide variety of spices - this is how the well-known soy sauce was created. In addition, the salt tax was introduced in China, thanks to which the construction of the Great Wall was financed. The ancient Egyptians not only made food last longer with salt, but also embalmed the body of the dead to protect them from decay.

Today almost 200 billion tons of table salt are produced worldwide, a large part of which is used in the chemical industry. There is a wide range of varieties nowadays - from fleur de sel to Himalaya salt, bamboo salt and black Hawaii salt - that give the dishes their special character. At the same time, salt exfoliates our skin, making it particularly soft and melts snow on the streets in winter. So salt is now part of the basic equipment of every household - it is hard to imagine that this was not always the case.

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