Fleur de sel has been harvested on the Guérande peninsula since the Iron Age. The first salt works to use the storage capacity of the lagoon goes back 3rd century, shortly after the Roman conquest.
The real inspiration though, behind the salt marshes, were the monks from Landevennec Abbey, who, in 945 founded Batz priory and carved them out by studying the tides, wind and sun. The monks mapped out a plan of the salt works, which is the one we see today.
The current exploitation technique goes back to before the 9th century. At least 5 salt works from the Carolingian period are still in operation on the marshes. The tradition of the salt worker’s profession and the preservation of his skills have allowed the Guerande marshes to survive through to modern times.
In the last few years, fleur de sel has has gained a certain reputation amongst food lovers. Very white, with fine, snow-like crystals and a very slight hint of violets, it enhances meals by bringing out the taste of even the finest dishes. Only a pinch should be used on raw or cooked food.
The Guérande salt marshes are in Southern Brittany between the mouths of the rivers Loire and Vilaine, on the Atlantic Ocean. They form a very large wetland zone in western Loire-Atlantique.
The salt marshes on the Guérande peninsula were awarded the Label Paysage in 1992, they have also been listed as a Zone Naturelle d’Intérêt Écologique, Floristique and Faunistique (ZNIEFF) (Site of Special Interest) by the French Government and since 1995 and the salt marshes have been listed as wetlands of international importance under the RAMSAR convention. Finally, the site forms part of the European Natura 2000 network and may even be recognised as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Fleur de sel is harvested in the Guerande salt marshes, late in the afternoon during very dry weather. Under the combined effect of the sun and a dry east wind, a fine skin of crystals forms on the surface of the “œillets”.
This skin, which is a pure white as it has never touched clay, is carefully gathered by the salt workers using a special rake known as the “lousse à fleur”. The very special weather conditions and the small quantity produced make it a rare and much sought-after product.
Fleur de sel has been recognised by great chefs as a great, flavour-enhancing treasure for many years, and is now available to everyone thanks to the work of Le Guérandais.
Ask for our Fleur de Sel today!
image copyrights: Pascal François