Maldon Salt historic marshlands

The history of salt

According to legend...

Casius Petrox was partial to a hot seawater bath to offset the effects of the fog, damp and icy winds which swept across the open marshes (this weather instantly rings true). Anyway, his soldiers had thus inadvertently discovered a method of producing salt from sea water. So chuffed was Casius that he gave up legioning and turned to saltmaking, though the Petrox brand seems to have disappeared in the intervening millennia.

Salt is a remarkable thing. An essential element in the diet of not only humans but of animals, and even of many plants, it is one of the most effective and most widely used of all food preservatives. Its industrial, medical and other uses are almost without number (ie. around 14,000). In fact, salt has been such an important element of life that it has been the subject of many stories and is frequently referenced in fairy tales. Some cultures ascribe magical powers to salt.

Salt served as money at various times and places, and the quest for salt has been the cause of bitter warfare. Offering bread and salt to visitors is, in many cultures, a traditional sign of hospitality.

Saltmaking encompasses much of the history of Europe since Roman times. Medieval European records document saltmaking technologies and concessions. You can sound particularly impressive at dinner parties by throwing on one of these salty historical facts:

At which point, it’s probably time to bring this potted history of all things salt to a close. There’s much, much more to tell, so do let us know if you’d like some more flakes from the salt-encrusted archives.