Guérande saltOver the centuries, in Southern Britain (France), men and ocean worked together to shape Guérande’s peninsula, creating the most northern salt marshes in Europe. From Guérande (in the south) to Assérac (in the north), salt marshes spread over more than 2000 hectares across 9 villages, on a land made of clay.
The current salt marshes began before the 9th century and lasted for several centuries. Around 1500 the marshes reached 80% of the current surface. The latest were built around 1800. In the middle of the 19th century, a gradual decline started for different reasons: competition from the salt mines, lower consumption of salt as a product of conservation and improvement of transport by land. The salt of Guérande used to be traded throughout Brittany, tax free, until Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte decided to tax it resulting in the beginning of a decline of salt activity. Certain parts of the “swamp” are classified as a Nature reserve (major stage for migratory birds) and are managed by the Conservatoire de Littoral. In 1971 marshes were registered on the list of protected wet-lands under the Ramsar Convention.
The salterns of Guérande include two salicoles ponds:
- The pond of Guérande: the biggest and the best known between Guérande and the peninsula of Croisic, on Traict
- The pond of Mès, smaller in its area, but most known in Europe.
These are the part of the Atlantic Ocean salterns, more then ¾ are found in Gironde and the peninsula of Quiberon.
Salt workers collect approximately 15 000 tons of cooking salt a year, and approximately 300 tons of Fleur de sel or Flower of salt. The principle is simple. Channels that feed the water reservoirs with sea water use the tides. Salty water then evaporates in different dams till there are only a few centimeters of sea water left. The last step is the crystallisation of salt and production of Fleur de sel and coarse salt.
Tradition has transcended time, preserving the harvest gestures adapted to specific environment: use of tides, use of three types of ponds, daily harvest, lack of mechanisation...
Guérande salt is hand-picked in France. 100% natural product, the size of the grains can slightly differ from one production to another. Bernard Cassière buys directly its salt from the producer.
Resources: Bernard Cassière scientific materials; wikipedia