When visiting The Algarve region of Portugal, travel east before you cross the Guadiana International Bridge into Spain and pay a visit to Sal Marim in Castro Marim. Sal Marim, owned and operated by Jorge Raiado, is an artisanal salt company and saltpan farm. Many of Portugal’s top restaurants, including Michelin starred restaurants, source their salt from Sal Marim. Customers may notice Sal Marim’s signature cork salt shaker set front and center on the dining tables of many restaurants throughout The Algarve. Their environmentally friendly cork salt shaker was originally launched in 2012.
Perhaps as if the food of the Algarve could not get any tastier, the flor de sal from Sal Marim adds even more life and flavor to complement the dish.
Jorge Raiado has been at the helm of Sal Marim since 2007. His passions for salt are as remarkable as the distinctive taste of flor de sal. But even with an ingredient that we consume every single day, there is still much to learn. Bring your hat, sunglasses, and readiness to learn as we dive inside the Sal Marim experience with Jorge:
What are some facts/information about salt that many may not know?
Salt was one of the most important spices, its importance gave the name to salary because the Romans paid the soldiers with a part in salt, and the same happened in the American Civil War.
The importance of the salt was lost with the arrival of technology: the fridge. Now we can store the food in good conditions without needing to keep it stored in the salt.
Since the use of salt its main use was to conserve food, nowadays is to empower taste, open the aromas, give pleasure around the table… but the main use of salt is industrial and also to deice the snow in the roads.
And without salt we don’t live. Just remember, when we go to the hospital they give us a salt solution called serum!
I would also recommend this documentary about salt called Pass the Salt.
“Salt Seasons Life.”
Please name some notable restaurants through the Algarve that you supply to.
In Vila Real de Santo António we work with the Grand House restaurants, Restaurante Noelia (cabanas), Ver Tavira, Ocean restaurant, Casa Velha in Quinta do Lago; Paixa Restaurante in Vale de Lobo, Vivenda Miranda in Lagos, BonBon restaurant, [among many others].
When is the best time to visit Castro Marim?
The best time for me is in September, still warm days and Algarve is not crowd anymore. The last figs are still on the tree to be harvested, the sardines remain fat and delicious. And the salt pounds look like white gardens, waiting for the long winter to rest, and the birds already learned how to fly to begin the cycle of their life.
What is perhaps most surprising to visitors when they first visit Castro Marim?
The landscape, the castle, the salt areas, the natural reserve, and the birds. For me is the place, its energy, and the castle’s heritage.
How is a salt farm maintained?
Like the crystal that never never left the land until it arrived on your chocolate mousse, besides the water drop that helped the salt to arrive to the salt pool.
Once upon a water drop The clouds covered the sky, traveling fast in our eyes, slow to the universe. The clouds were getting crowded with drops, sweet drops from all around the earth, crossing prairies and cities seen by millions changing the opinion of those who prayed for rain.
One morning, passing over a high mountain the cloud sighed and the drops followed down. They were hugged by the mountain that led them into its body dragging everything in its way to the nearest watercourse, if we could call it a watercourse. It was running stones and earth, trees and bushes, tearing its way down at the same time the single drops left the anonymity to become an uncontrolled herd.
In its walk, everything in its way joined the herd in the direction of the ocean. In its path they left back mountains and plateaus, crossing cities, some of them in peace, others leaving the terror of its strength.
During its long journey from river to river, sometimes flooding the banks of the rivers and depositing there the richness that brought in its way, fertilizing the fields, also got lots of minerals that will offer salinity to the sea water. And again, arriving at the sea is following the currents side to side with turtles and boats, until one shore will be guided in a pool after a dam, and is the beginning of a new journey.
That column of seawater, with its minerals, begins to evaporate. The water with a few grams of salts (minerals) per liter began to concentrate, the brine gets stronger, being driven in a white garden circuit inside a Salina (salt pound or salt field) until it arrives to a small pool, where the salt crystallizes and and again the drop will get free and joins brothers and sisters in the sky to begin a life cycle again and again leaving back its legacy, the salt that seasons lives!
Salt varieties include: Fleur de sel original, Piri-Piri (the most popular), Limão, Mediterrânica, and Aromática.
Sal Marim ships their salt internationally. Click here for more information on Sal Marim in eastern Algarve.