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Ancient Algarvean super-food

By Polly Cocker [email protected]

Although Portuguese Flor de Sal (from the original French fleur de sal) has been harvested from salt marshes in the Algarve since the Roman Empire, the gourmet salt has been increasing in popularity in not only the Algarve but across the world.

Luis Salvador Salas works for Necton, the second largest producer of hand harvested sea salt and Flor de Sal in Europe. The company is based in the Algarve, producing natural salt from the salt marshes in Ria Formosa Nature Park in Olhão.

Flor de Sal can be bought in leading supermarkets.
Flor de Sal can be bought in leading supermarkets.

Originally set up by marine biologists who planned to investigate the algae in the marshes, the company soon realised the other potential for the salinas.

“Our sales of Flor de Sal are continually increasing year after year. We sell half of our product in Portugal but export the rest to over 30 countries around Europe,” he explained. “I think Flor de Sal is increasing in popularity because people are more concerned about what they eat and recognise the gourmet salt’s high quality.”

Traditional methods of harvesting are still used to produce Flor de Sal, which ensures minimal damage to the environment. “The production methods are governed by a Portuguese law, Portaria 72, which prohibits the use of machinery and pumping water to harvest the Flor de Sal,” Luis said. “All of the Flor de Sal is collected by hand and then dried in the sun for five days. It is a 100 per cent natural production method so the Flor de Sal is free from industrial contaminants.”

Flor de Sal is not washed so it retains more minerals, making it healthier and giving it a unique flavour, different to normal salt. “Manufactured salt consists of 99 per cent sodium chloride,” said Luís, “whereas Flor de Sal is rich in other minerals such as potassium, magnesium and iodine which are essential minerals for our bodies.”


Unlike normal salt, Flor de Sal has a higher humidity and smooth crystals making it ideal for seasoning food but not for cooking. “When sprinkled over hot food like steak, the crystals melt but leave a slight crunch which is delicious,” Luis said. “Cuisine chefs around the world are now using Flor de Sal instead of normal table salt because of the unique and rich bouquet of flavours it gives.”

Sales of Flor de Sal for Necton have been increasing in the Algarve and across Europe over recent years. “Flor de Sal can be bought in leading supermarkets such as Pingo Doce and Continente,” Luis said. “It is a more exclusive product so is more expensive than regular salt. For 250g, it retails at 1.79 euros in Pingo Doce, for example.”

Despite the increasing demand for Flor de Sal, the supply is limited as it is a natural product and a successful harvest relies on sunny weather. “The season for harvesting lasts from June until September and throughout I pray for good weather!” said Luis. “We can only produce small quantities because we must harvest the Flor de Sal by hand which is time consuming and labour intensive.”

However, the high quality and unique flavoursome properties of Flor de Sal have led to the commercial development of the product. “The Swiss chocolate brand Lindt now uses Necton’s Flor de Sal in some of their chocolate products!”