Tuesday, 24 April 2007

traditional Cornish salt

Last week I went to Saltash again (to look again - and this time buy - a bike). Funny these little coincidences in life aren't they...

Of course the 'salt' in Saltash comes from, umm, its association with salt - either from salt panning or salt marshes or from a more obscure salty reason. There is a Salt Mill Creek there and the historic Salt Mill site is now a community centre (with some fine public art works).

Salt was traditionally produced in various places around the Cornish coast by a panning process similar to the Portuguese one described in my last post, though here heat from fire was needed to evaporate the water from ceramic trays (called briquetage). Seems it's not quite as sustainable as sun and wind drying, but a block of salt could be produced in a day. Thanks to Archaeology Online for this information.

It got me wondering why someone didn't resurrect traditional salt production... and then I found the Cornish Sea Salt company in St Keverne doing exactly that! I just spoke to Tony Fraser there on the phone and once they officially launch in August I will be able to test the dip-dyeing process with proper Cornish salt. What I'm most curious to discover is whether other minerals in the salt (ie not sodium chloride) will have an unintended effect on Procion dyes - possibly even a welcome one! Roll on August!

In my dithering over whether it's appropriate to use such a high quality resource for dyeing I looked a bit more into contemporary salt mining in Britain. The Salt Manufacturers Association website is really informative including on British salt history. One fact above all stands out in making me choose

The proven UK salt reserves are extensive, with an estimated 500 years capacity at current extraction rates.

Rock salt is finite. Five hundred years sounds a long time, but if we are using it up at a rate faster than it can replenish itself then it is not sustainable. With salt being used to manufacture over 14,000 products (another fact) I wonder how much is permanently lost or locked up in these products, and how much eventually returns to the earth/ocean to re-become sodium chloride. More to come...

No comments: