“Salt — the only rock we eat — has made a glittering, often surprising contribution to the history of humankind. Until about 100 years ago, when modern geology revealed its prevalence, salt was one of the world’s most sought-after commodities. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires and inspired revolutions.” — From Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Pulling into the Marathon Key this past winter, the weather was perfect and we were lucky. Some Arctic hellaciousness was bearing down on every state in the country save for this very tip of Florida, where temps lingered in the 80s.
Tom and Midge are the purveyors of Florida Keys’ Earth and Sea Salt farms. They harvest the sea and evaporate it via sunshine to create artisanal, organic salts. Their farm also flourishes with papaya, purslane, moringa, and a host of other edible and medicinal flowers, plants, and herbs.
The bus rolled off of the main paved road onto gravel, then dirt as we headed through the low, marshy property of the farm.
Midge was up on her porch waving us in, as we had been invited to park and plug-in for the night as we toured their operation. Houses around there are all up on stilts. If there is a first floor, its usually reserved for a garage or work area that one wouldn’t fear losing to hurricane flood waters.
“There’s the high water mark from the last big one,” Thom said, reaching his hand up to about seven feet. The ocean can be a destructive force in these islands during storm season, but Tom and Midge have learned to work with the sea to create a harmonious relationship and an incredibly pure, natural, delicious product.
The family recycled a lot of the building material and debris from previous irrigation and buildings to construct their initial salt houses, where solar power does 100 percent of the evaporation work. Man, it gets hot in there too! With temps reaching up to 160 degrees, workers have to pair up to enter the salt houses at the peak times, lest anyone pass out. The thermometers stop working when it hits 149.
From there, the water and bits of seaweed are filtered out and Midge creates her array of culinary and artisanal salt mixes.
They began their experiment in permaculture in 2006, giving away their products, until their process was cemented, and began selling in 2010.
Their garden also produces one of the most fascinating crops we have come across on our quest — the moringa tree.
Midge explained how the moringa seeds can help purify water. The trees are indigenous to equatorial climates and many lesser-developed countries rely on the seeds, pods and leaves of the trees for survival. The leafy greens are said to contain higher contents of protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than any other tree in the world and some research has suggested that this plant could potentially be useful for regulating blood pressure and glucose levels.
Perched at the edge of the Great White Heron Wildlife Refuge, one must have a unique makeup to dwell in this very hot and humid climate. Midge and Thom are the pioneers of this unique and simple method, providing this key part of the all-life diet from their humble Florida Keys farm.
For our readers we are doing a giveaway of some salt from the Florida Keys, including one infused with moringa leaves and another smoked with local buttonwood. Head over to like us on Facebook or Twitter and leave a comment to enter. We will draw randomly in a few days…
-David and Kristina-