Prior to visiting Les, we had heard of and eaten organic salt, however, we never gave much thought to it or the process involved in its production. We knew it was more expensive than regular table salt, but beyond that we didn’t know much. After a week in Les, our appreciation for the product has completely changed! Seeing first hand the amount of physical labor going into the salt by its farmers is incredible. The farmers take great pride in their work, unfortunately their profits from the salt are not commensurate with what goes into making the product.
The farm land next to the Java Sea is used for different crops depending on the season. We were lucky to see the salt production in process as salt farming ends once rainy season begins, and that was just getting under way during our week in Les. The process starts with setting and grading plots of dirt where the sea water will be placed. Once the dirt is ready, salt water is pumped from the sea directly into the fresh dirt. This pumping step is repeated three times to completely saturate the soil. Above you can see the blue tube used to bring the water up from the sea.
Prior to the installation of these pumping systems, water was carried bucket by bucket to fill the soil. These pumping systems were only installed within the last year!
After the soil has been saturated, the mud is placed in a circular filter in the middle of the four plots of soil. The filter is made out of bamboo and tarp that allows the water to be filtered through the bottom, while keeping dirt out. Periodically the farmers take what looks like a big broom and hit the top to pack the mud/dirt down. You can see a before and after shot above of fresh mud and then the filtered look.
The water drains into a reservoir underneath the filter, where the farmers can transport it to its next stop.
Filtered water is then brought to drying areas with a black tarp underneath. Here the water sits under the hot sun to let the water evaporate and leave the organic salt behind. Crazy
After one week, the finished product can be seen. We were told by mixing the water with the soil, it causes the salt to obtain a sweeter flavor. This is a preferable taste to an otherwise bitter salt that is produced without the soil process. We enjoyed the salt in our meals throughout the week in Les and it was quite tasty.
Each section, which encompasses four plots, one filter and two dryers, produces 100 kilos (220 pounds) of salt per week. In high season, a kilo sells for 3000 rupiah, which amounts to 300,000 rupiah per section per week. So, the total amount made for an entire weeks work is about $24.50 USD. After seeing how much effort the farmers put into the salt, it was hard to hear this dollar amount and we hope there becomes a greater demand for this type of salt to help increase its value.
Now, everyone, go out to your local grocery stores and markets and request they stock some organic Balinese salt!