These days we take salt for granted. We keep it in a shaker on our dinner tables, and throw it over our shoulder because of superstition. We use it in just about everything – whether sweet or savory. But did you know that once upon a time, salt was worth more than gold? Read about its fascinating history here.
Early in history, natural salts were collected from evaporated bodies of water. The sun would cause shallow pools of water to evaporate, leaving a layer of salt crystals behind. People could then easily scrape off these crystals and collect the salt.
Salt was once worth so much, that it was used as a trading item. In fact, the world ‘salary’ is actually derived from the word salt. It was an extremely valuable commodity, and because there were restrictions on the production of salt, it was used as a form of currency. This had a large influence on how civilizations developed. Small towns would settle near popular salt routes, making it easier for travelers to transport salt throughout the area. Not only is salt useful for preservation and culinary purposes, but it has also been used to treat wounds, tan leather, and dye fabrics. It’s then no wonder than once upon a time, Roman soldiers were once paid in salt!
Humans have been using salt for thousands of years. Long before the time of modern food processing and refrigeration, salt was primarily used for food preservation. Salt prevents the growth of certain bacteria, which stops food from going bad and making people sick. It also reduces the moisture level of foods, making it possible to store food for a longer time. Just imagine how much longer salt-cured meat will stay edible compared to fresh piece.
Salt does more than just flavor your food. It plays a functional role too. When used in bread, it helps to strengthen the gluten, giving your bread better elasticity. It also stops the fermentation process, which will prevent the bread from rising too much.
Salt (sodium chloride) is actually essential for the human body. We need it for a healthy heart, and it also regulates blood fluids. This is why it’s dangerous if you drink too much water. It dilutes the salts in your body so much that the sodium levels fall to dangerously low levels. But too much salt is also not a good thing. It can raise your blood pressure, putting more strain on your heart and kidneys.
Who knew these white granules had so much history behind it?