Wednesday, April 04, 2007

History of Salt

Food History
Hunters in Greenland ate no salt until they were introduced to it by whaling Europeans in the 17th century. Like our prehistoric forebears, Lapps, Samoyeds, Kirghiz, Bedouin, Masai and Zulus used to consume all the sodium they needed from the animals and fish they ate.

It is to be believed that salt eating developed as humans learned how to keep animals and grow crops in the years after 10,000 BC. As the proportion of meat in their diet fell, people had to find salt for themselves and for their domesticated animals. Salt has another crucial property that made it important for the development of human society.

By 2000 BC, people knew that adding salt to food stopped it going off. Salt was used to preserve meat, fish and vegetables, and to create delicacies such as salted olives, which added variety to the diet.

Until the 19th century, the most important use of salt was in food, though it was also used to treat leather, dye textiles and in making pottery. In the 19th century, chemists discovered ways of using salt to make a whole range of new chemicals. Manufacturers today claim there are more than 14,000 uses for salt.

This industrial demand for salt caused a growth in the industry and much more extensive deep mining and drilling of salt. Salt shortages effectively ended by the middle of the 19th century.
Food History