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Fleur de sel, white gold

In the Vendée the main harvesting salt areas can be found on the Ile de Noirmoutier, near Saint Hilaire de Riez, Ile d’Olonne as well as Les Sables d’Olonne and Talmont Saint Hilaire. Traditional methods are still being used to harvest this “white gold” (Sea salt). The harvesting period is from May to September, when “gros sel” or coarse salt as well as the refined more delicate ”fleur de sel” is collected. When visiting these salt marshes, it is fascinating to see these little mounds of salt gathered on the edge of the salt pans.

Salt and the salt marshes of the Vendée

Here, it is known as white gold! On the Atlantic coast, the salt marshes still in activity perpetuate an ancestral know-how to obtain the fine flower of salt and sea salt, whether on the island of Noirmoutier, in the Breton marshes of Vendée, Vie or Olonne or in the Talmondais. The principle of a salt marsh is simple: the climatic and geological conditions must be brought together to obtain maximum saturation of the sodium chloride in the sea water. The harvesting period is from May to September. Harvesting is done after the water has evaporated with the help of a large flat rake called a "simoussi". It is then left to crystallize on the edge of the marsh, which enriches it with minerals.

Did you know?

If you walk through the salt marshes and notice a thin, delicate crust shimmering on the surface of the water, this is “fleur de sel” (flowers of salt). It forms on the surface of sea water as it evaporates. Fleur de sel has been harvested since ancient times and used for medicinal purposes. Today, it is used a finishing salt to flavour and garnish food, as it melts quickly and lighter than normal salt. Its name comes from the delicate flower like patterns the crystals create in the salt crust. A product which is rare and in general more expensive than ordinary salt or coarse salt.

Learn a few secrets about salt harvesting 

When exploring the “Salines adventure park near Les Sables d’Olonne you will not only a unique place and unlock all the secrets of salt. Here, the children will have the privilege of joining the saunier (a salt harvester) on the salt marsh. They are shown how the harvest the salt and then can collect their own. They will be proud to let other family members taste the salt they collected.

Numerous paths cross the marshes where you will see other “saunier”, fish and various wildlife.