Note from Jenn: This story was originally published in May 2015. It’s an oldie, but goodie, so we thought we would share it with you all again. Enjoy!
Originally Published in May 2015: For those of you who routinely follow the goings on on St. John, you’re probably aware that the island has not received significant rain in roughly two months. Our cisterns are empty and our hillsides are particularly crunchy looking. So while it stinks that our island is in desperate need of rain, there is one positive that has come out of our latest draught – Salt Pond is actually producing salt!
So you might be thinking – of course a salt pond would produce salt. But that’s not always true. Conditions need to be right in order for this to happen. And from what we hear, this hasn’t happened in about four years. I’m clearly not an expert on this, so I looked to one of the island’s most knowledgeable residents for a better explanation – Mr. Gerald Singer. Here’s what he had to say on his website:
Because of its location on this arid and windswept part of the island, Salt Pond is the most likely place to find 100% natural St. John sea salt – no fat, no carbs, no cholesterol, no preservatives.
How Does the Salt Get There? Saltwater enters the pond from the sea by seepage at high tides and by waves breaking over the surface during storms. Salt Pond is one of the only places on St. John that is below sea level. This condition prevents significant amounts of pond water from flowing back out to sea. Constant, intense sunlight and ever-present trade winds encourage an exceptionally high rate of evaporation. When rain is scarce, the water becomes extremely salty. Water can only hold a certain amount of salt in solution and when the salinity of the pond reaches that point, the salt crystallizes.
As the water level continues to drop, and more and more water is evaporated, a layer of salt is left along the edges of the pond. The longer the dry period, the higher the temperature, and the stronger the winds, the more this salt layer will extend towards the center of the pond and the thicker the layer becomes.
You can collect salt during these times by scooping up the salt with your hands, if it is still wet and soft. If the salt layer is dry and hard, use a knife or other sharp tool. (If you’ve forgotten to bring a container, just walk over to nearby Drunk Bay where there is a great deal of flotsam, and you’ll probably find something you can use.)
After the salt is collected, drain off as much water as possible and put it in the sun to dry further. You may be left with fine powdery salt, which you can enjoy on your food immediately or, if the dried crystals are large, you will first need to grind them up or pound them out.
The salt obtained from salt ponds is particularly tasty and healthy, containing all the minerals that are present in the sea, which include all those essential to the human body. So during the next dry spell, take the trail to St. John’s best salt pond for collecting salt and bring some back home.
I took Gerald’s advice and did just that Monday morning. (Reminder from Jenn: This story was originally published in May 2015.) With a strainer and some Tupperware in tow, I drove out to Salt Pond and decided to do some harvesting of my own. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Salt Pond’s location, it’s out past Coral Bay. There’s a small parking lot on the lefthand side of the road where you can park. Once you arrive, walk down the dirt path and toward the beach – about five minutes. Once you get to the beach, walk to the far side where you will see a small trail on your lefthand side. In less than a minute, you will see the salt pond. When you get there, walk either left or right to get to the far side of the pond. That’s where the majority of the salt is collecting.
Once you reach the salty areas, simply sift it in your hands or strainer to remove the mud. It’s that easy. Load it up in a bucket or other container and bring it home. I rinsed mine pretty well and sat it in the sun to dry. Once it’s perfect, I’m going to use it to cook with and also to make some scrubs. Pretty cool, right?
Yet another reason why St. John is one of the coolest spots in the world…