The country that is most notably associated with fabulous wines, cheeses and lots and lots of bread has many other culinary treasures. I visited the home of one of these over the last few days: the salt marshes of Guérande.
Each year there are over 200 million tonnes of salt that get produced and although Guérande only produces a small fraction of this amount it is notable for several reasons:
- The salt gave rise to the name “Fleur de sel“. This is the name given to sea salt that is collected by hand by scraping the top layer of salt in water before it gets a chance to sink to the bottom. The salt that is collected from the bottom is generally bigger and grey (due to the fact that it gets mixed with some mud) and is called “gros sel”
- The procedure of collection in Guérande is still very much manual where the salt harvesters (the technical term is paludière) spend 12-16 hours per day during the the months of June-September collecting and sorting the salt by hand. It is not mixed with anything here – just pure salt!
Terre De Sel is the home of the cooperative that has around 200 salt harvesters and where you can join a tour. There are tours all year round but the best time to come is certainly in the summer where you can witness the salt collection.
Although there aren’t the same sort of global awards like there are for Wine, the salt of Guérande can still lay claim to some important achievements, one of which being awarded the Label Rouge (an official recognition of extremely high quality in France that is difficult to obtain).
The towns in the surrounding area are very pretty and you can easily spend a few days in the area. Plenty of beaches as well if you’re coming in the summer!