Arguably, the best salt in the world, the delicately fine crystals of Fleur de Sel de Guérande has a wonderfully delicate flavour. Harvesting of the last began back in the 9th centry and the making of it is still time-consuming – water from the Atlantic ocean is carefully guided through narrow waterways into shallow marshes called oeillets. Here water evaporates to a depth of up to one centimetre, forming a fine later of salt on the surface. This is carefully raked up with a lousse à de fleur (think a cross between a rake and her dustpan). Traditionally, this has been a job of women, called paludiers, as men were considered too rough. Grey salt from Guerlande is harvested by raking below the surface of the water – less fine it is known for its high magnesium content.
Known for its delicate taste of the sea, salt has been harvested on the island of Ile de Ré since the 13th century. At its peak during the 19th century, 32,000 tons of salt were farmed during the summer months’ today just 2,000 tonnes are produced each year. Harvested from salt pans dried in the sun, the pure and much sought-after top layer, called Fleur de Sel (flower of the sea) hand-raked and then collected. The salt from the bottom of the pan is called Sel Gris (grey salt), the colour caused by the clay, and is rich in minerals.