AdelFerrito
AdelFerrito

Salt-pans the stuff of legends

The ability of salt to preserve food eliminated the dependence on the seasonal availability of food, and it also meant that food could be transported over long ...
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The ability of salt to preserve food eliminated the dependence on the seasonal availability of food, and it also meant that food could be transported over long distances. However, salt was difficult to obtain, and as such it was a highly-valued trade item. Many salt roads, such as the via Salaria in Italy, had been established as far back as the Bronze Age.

Today, salt is almost universally accessible, relatively cheap and often iodized. It is commonly believed that Roman soldiers were at certain times paid in salt. It is said the soldiers who did their job well were ‘worth their salt’.

This, however, is debatable: ‘salary’ derives from the Latin word ‘salarium’, possibly referring to money given to soldiers so they could buy salt. The Roman Republic and Empire controlled the price of salt, increasing it to raise money for wars, or lowering it to ensure the poorest citizens could easily afford what is an important part of the diet.

Along the Maltese and Gozitan coast there are about 40 sites where salt is still collected using very old traditions, to preserve food. For instance, the Qbajjar salt-pan or ‘salini’ (an Italian derived toponym meaning salt-pans) in Gozo have been used since Roman times for harvesting sea salt.
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