Union Island residents picking salt at  Big Sands again
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February 5, 2010

Union Island residents picking salt at Big Sands again

Residents of Union Island are presently involved in the traditional activity of “salt picking”.{{more}}

Since Tuesday, February 2, the mangrove at Big Sand in the Belmont area has been a hive of activity as residents harvest the crystals of sodium chloride (NaCl), which have formed in the flat area, just inland from the beach.

According to Union Island resident Vernalyn Blencowe, salt picking used to be an annual activity during the dry season, but no salt formed over the last few years.

The salt is formed when seawater, which comes in from the nearby beach, evaporates during the long dry season, leaving behind the sodium chloride (salt) crystals which had been dissolved in the seawater.

The salt is harvested by gently scraping it off the surface of the ground, taking care not to dig too deeply, so that no mud is taken up with the salt.

Blencowe told SEARCHLIGHT that the mangrove is located on Government land, so in years gone by, salt pickers were required to hand over one-third of the salt they harvested to the government. She said the salt was collected at the District Officer’s house, after which it was sent to the mainland for use in public institutions such as the prison, hospitals and Lewis Punnet Home.

In Union Island, the salt is mainly used by residents to corn fish and for cooking. However, the salt, which is also referred to as “rock salt”, is also used internationally to exfoliate dead skin cells, as an antioxidant to rid the body of toxic materials, and as a home remedy for many ailments and disorders.

The salt picking is expected to continue for the next few weeks until all the salt has been harvested, provided no rain comes. If it rains, the salt crystals will dissolve.