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Residents of Union Island involved in salt picking

Residents of Union Island involved in salt picking

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by Don DeRiggs

For Lawrence Alexander, a senior citizen of Union Island, salt picking is more than just an enjoyable past time.

SEARCHLIGHT first met Alexander on Wednesday, calf deep in the mucky salt pond at the mangrove at Belmont on Union Island. He told us that {{more}}the activity, which takes place for a few weeks during the dry season, also has economic reward.

From a distance, the salt pond appears to be nice, flat, white playground, but as one gets closer, it becomes obvious that the salt is just a thin layer on the surface of the muddy ground.

The salt is formed when seawater, which comes in from the nearby beach, evaporates during the long dry season, leaving behind the sodium chloride (salt) crystals which had been dissolved in the seawater.

The salt is harvested by gently scraping it off the surface of the ground, taking care not to dig too deeply, so that no mud is taken up with the salt. Several methods are used to scrape a half-inch layer of damp salt into small heaps, to allow excess water to run out. Pieces of PVC cut to between 12 to 15 inches, dust pans or just bare hands are used to scrape the salt, which will later be shoveled into buckets, so that the salt can be transported across the slippery mangrove back to firm ground.

Alexander is also an active participant in the annual Maroon festival and is determined to keep that tradition, as well as the salt picking, alive. As they picked the salt, the harvesters engaged in friendly chatter that ranged from ‘anything to everything’.

Alexander said there is still a demand for organic salt as doctors often recommend it for use by diabetics, because of the presence of iodine and other trace elements. He said that the salt is sold to distributors in Kingstown, who re-pack and label it for sale in supermarkets.

Residents of the Southern Grenadines use the salt they pick to corn fish and for cooking. However, the salt, which is also referred to as “rock salt”, is also used internationally to exfoliate dead skin cells, as an antioxidant to rid the body of toxic materials, and as a home remedy for many ailments and disorders.

The salt picking is expected to continue for the next few weeks until all the salt has been harvested, provided no rain comes. If it rains, the salt crystals will dissolve.

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