Written by Heather Grant
The production of salt has been going on in Union Island for
hundreds of years. At Belmont Salt Pond, each year when the dry season
arrives, the water in this low lying wetland dries out, leaving a thick crust
of white salt crystals. This was the onlysource of salt for the early inhabitants of
the island and was a major export in the 1700s. The ‘white gold’ was shipped off
to Europe by French and British colonizers and in a good (both long
and dry) season, thousands of pounds of salt were harvested by hand.
Until fairly recently, all salt harvested had to be shared with the St. Vincent
government, one third for the government, two thirds for the harvesters. The
government’s share was used in institutions such as hospitals and prisons –
and some was sold to England in the days when ships travelled across the sea
carrying cargo between the two countries.
Before electricity and refrigeration, salt was used to preserve fish in the hot climate.
Each year families went to the salt pond, being very careful not to trample too much
of the salt as they walked onto the pond to collect this precious commodity. Salt was
valuable for another reason, as it was used for therapeutic purposes as well
as for preserving food. For example, mothers would mix coconut oil and
salt to rub on their babies’ skin. Table salt, refined by industrial
processes, is stripped of most of the minerals that are present in it when it is
extracted from natural sources. Due to this, table salt is 99.9% sodium chloride
as compared to sea salt, which contains only 98% of the compound.
The remaining 2% is up made of around 80 important minerals such as
iron, sulphur, and magnesium. It is for this reason that sea salt has more
flavour than table salt, which makes it