It’s one of the trendiest foods on the wellness scene and takes pride of place in the centre of most foodie’s kitchen tables. But it’s far from being the clean, natural product we’re led to believe it’s actually quite the opposite. Today I’m chatting about what the most sustainable salt is for Australians. Plus I’ll share 6 reasons why Himalayan Rock Salt isn’t welcome at my table ….
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It never ceases to surprise me just how much the type of food has changed in one generation. While the varieties of salt available haven’t exploded to the same extent as coffee, milk and bread, the types of salt on the market are a stark contrast to those when I was a kid growing up in the 1980s.
Back then it was table salt. Sodium chloride. White. Highly processed. Small granules. End of story.
Once I left home for university I started experimenting more in the kitchen and table salt was one of the first things I overhauled. I was waitressing in the flashiest function rooms at Flemington and Caulfield Racecourses in order to pay (and eat….. one of the job perks was a restaurant quality meal with every long shift!) my way through my environmental engineering studies. Inspired by the top chefs there, I started using sea salt flakes in my cooking and I felt super gourmet. We’re talking the mid 1990’s here!!.
Like the average person back then, I believed salt for culinary purposes came from the sea and the sea alone.
It wasn’t until a field trip to the Murray Darling Basin as part of my environmental geology unit to witness first-hand the impact of both dryland and wetland salinity in the region, did my awareness shift.
The Murray Darling Basin has traditionally been Australia’s ‘Food Bowl’ but food production in the region has been impacted significantly over the past 30+ years by salinity and water shortages (including water ‘wars’ between the four Australian states the rivers flow through…. but that’s another story).
On this trip we visited Ramsar-listed wetlands that were under threat and farms struggling with salt-affected crops. Massive areas of land were officially ‘dead’ due to being poisoned by salt, and the River Red Gums which line the ancient creek beds were dying from the roots up due to the rising water table that was bringing ancient salts closer to the surface.
To say the field trip was moving would be an understatement.
But where there is adversity there is always opportunity and that was also apparent on this trip.
We passed an area of land with large pink, glistening stockpiles on it. I learned that this was a pilot area for extracting the ancient salts from the rising water table for the food market. Being the foodie that I am, I was intrigued and kept my eye out for when I could actually buy this stuff. A couple of years later I spotted the product in a gourmet food store. It’s been a staple in my home ever since.
But what has all this got to do with Himalayan Rock Salt you ask?
Nothing and Everything.
In recent years there’s been a lot of hype around Himalayan Rock Salt, primarily around its flavour and reported health benefits. Sure, some of this attention is warranted, but if you live in Australia, eating Himalayan Rock Salt just doesn’t make environmental sense, especially when there’s a more sustainable salt you should be consuming in its place and for Australians, that’s Murray River Salt Flakes.
Here’s the SIX Reasons Himalayan Rock Salt Is Not Welcome At My Table:
1. Himalayan Rock Salt is Mined
Unlike artisan sea salt flakes that are extracted and evaporated from sea water, or Murray River Salt Flakes that are evaporated from naturally-saline groundwater resources, Himalayan Rock Salt is extracted from the Khewra salt mine in Pakistan. It is not sourced from the pristine Himalayan Mountains like the name implies.
This involves using conventional mining methods (with their associated environment impacts including land disturbance and greenhouse gas emissions) to extract a non-renewable resource. This leads me onto the next point.
2. Himalayan Rock Salt is a Finite Resource
Himalayan Rock Salt is a non-renewable, finite resource estimated to have formed 800 million years ago. Despite estimates that salt reserves are in the millions of tonnes, once this resource has been depleted, it will be gone. For good.
This contrasts to sea salt flakes and Murray River Salt Flakes, which are more sustainable salts, as they are extracted from a renewable resource.
3. Himalayan Rock Salt Has Huge Food Miles
Pakistan is 11,000 kilometres away from where I live in Australia which means it uses some serious “food miles” to transport Himalayan Rock Salt to my kitchen pantry. On the contrary, Murray River Salt Flakes are produced less than 1,000 kilometres away.
4. Himalayan Rock Salt Isn’t The Only Mineral Salt Out There
Much of the appeal of Himalayan Rock Salt comes from the fact that it contains trace minerals. These include sulfur, magnesium, potassium and calcium that just aren’t present in sea salt. Here’s the thing though…… Murray River Salt Flakes are bursting with all these minerals too!
5. Himalayan Rock Salt Isn’t The Only Pretty Salt Out There
I know, the pink orange colour sure has the WOW factor and makes a statement on your kitchen table. I get it. I truly do. But Murray River Salt Flakes are a gorgeous pink colour too.
6. Himalayan Rock Salt Isn’t The Only Tasty Salt Out There
Sure Himalayan Rock Salt offers a flavour sensation that table salt can’t match. However in my opinion, Murray River Salt Flakes are just as tasty.
If you live in Australia there just isn’t a comparison. Murray River Salt Flakes are a total no brainer. I love them because they’re local and they help combat one of our country’s most significant environmental issues, inland salinity. On top of that they’re tasty and look impressive too!
So, when will you make the switch to a more sustainable salt?
If you’re ready to break up with Himalayan Rock Salt and switch to Murray River Salt Flakes, you can purchase them here.
Note: If you live outside Australia, eating Murray River Salt Flakes may not make sense for you. In your case I’d suggest choosing a locally-produced sea salt such as Maldon Sea Flakes or FalkSalt to keep your food miles down. Also, if you have Himalayan Rock Salt in your pantry, by all means consume it before replacing it with a more sustainable salt. Food waste alone makes up around 40% of the household waste stream so please don’t waste what you already have in your possession.
Keen to discover what other “Eco Bombs” are lurking in your pantry? Download my FREE eGuide “10 Simple Swaps To Eco-Fy Your Pantry” here.