Pink Himalayan Sea Salt


What is Himalayan Sea Salt?

Himalayan sea salt is a gourmet salt with a slightly misleading name. It doesn't come from the Himalayan mountains, and it doesn't come from a sea.

However it is definitely sea salt, so it's not a total misnomer.

Himalayan salt actually refers exclusively to a Pakistani rock salt that used to be sea salt hundreds of millions of years ago. When a sea spreading over this region dried up, it was covered by geological shifts, leaving massive deposits of salt scattered throughout the hills.

Odd name aside, Himalayan salt has a lot going for it: It's tasty, it's pink, and some even claim it has healing properties.

Let's look a little closer and get the full story.

What Makes Himalayan Salt So Special?

While Himalayan salt is best known for being pink, it can also be off-white or transparent depending on the other minerals present in that particular deposit.

At over 95% sodium chloride, it's a very pure salt. The other 5% is made up of iron oxide, which usually gives it that characteristic pink color, and smaller amounts of sulfur, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

In addition to being pretty, it's also versatile. The 'gourmet' in the name might have given away the fact that it's a very popular cooking salt.

It comes with a nice crunch and a slightly floral flavor similar to lavender that makes it ideal for a finishing salt on roasted meats or even baked goods.

The coarse texture means that it's also a good choice for brines and marinades.

Where Does Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Come From?

The name makes it sound like it could come from anywhere in the Himalayas, but in reality, Himalayan gourmet sea salt comes only from Pakistan, or even more specifically, from the Khewra salt mine in Jhelum District in Punjab.

It's located not in the Himalayas themselves but in the nearby Salt Range foothills. The full Salt Range stretches across the entire Punjab province, covering about 300 kilometers. Although it contains a number of different salt mines, Khewra is the only one that produces true Himalayan salt.

The Khewra mine is the largest salt mine in Pakistan and the second-largest worldwide, which makes it a major tourist destination that attracts over a quarter million people each year.

Despite the constant visits, they somehow still manage to mine a huge amount of salt each year.


The Himalayan Salt Story

The full story of authentic Himalayan salt begins over 800 million years ago when that shallow sea evaporated, but it wasn't discovered until Alexander the Great discovered the deposits around the year 326 BC during his Indian Campaign.

Actually, to be more precise, Alexander didn’t find the salt: His horses did. When the soldiers found them licking the stones in the area, they tried it out for themselves and shared the discovery.

The full story of authentic Himalayan salt begins over 800 million years ago when that shallow sea evaporated, but it wasn't discovered until Alexander the Great discovered the deposits around the year 326 BC during his Indian Campaign.

The flavor and healing effects of the salt were highly regarded from then on, but mining on a large scale didn’t begin until the 16th century, when the Mughal Empire and then the Sikhs used it for food and commerce. It was transported by yak as far as Central Asia as a valuable trade item. Mining was dangerous, though, due to narrow tunnels and lack of water inside, so the sea salt deposits were never fully exploited.

The modern history of the mine begins in 1872, when the British took over the Khewra salt mine.

Finding the old-school methods of production to be inefficient, they undertook a complete overhaul of the mine and built warehouses, widened roads, expanded the tunnels, and mechanized the excavation of the salt.

The Himalayan Salt Story

Nowadays, the Khewra site is a completely modern mining operation. It covers a full nineteen stories, with eleven of them completely underground.

The miners use a room-and-pillar method of mining to reduce the need for outside supports. This method involves cutting out about half of the salt and leaving the rest there as pillars to support the many tons of material overhead, leaving the interior looking something like a massive pinkish maze of salt.

Despite the newer mining techniques, the salt is still brought out of the mine in rail cars using the same tiny 2-foot wide track that the British laid in the 19th century.

The Khewra salt mine is now one of the most productive mines in the world and produces nearly 400,000 tons of Himalayan salt per year. That's almost half of Pakistan's total annual salt production.

As huge as that sounds, though, it's not even close to exhausting the potential of the deposits. Estimates suggest that the mine could sustain that level of production for another 350 years without a problem.


Health Benefits of Himalayan Salt

The health benefits are another popular reason to use Himalayan sea salt. Many tout it as a healthier replacement for table salt, but it can also be used topically.

Himalayan salt baths and scrubs are said to stimulate circulation, relieve sore muscles, and even help eliminate toxins from the body.

Larger chunks of the salt are also used to make lamps, which some say release soothing energy waves and ions into the air.

While the jury is still out on the energy waves, there's no denying that the aesthetic appeal and fine taste of gourmet Himalayan sea salt are unparalleled. If you're on the fence about the value of this luxury salt, give it a try.

With all the benefits of color, flavor, and texture on its side, you've got nothing to lose.

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