Salt Production
A salt pond (or saltpan) is a natural or artificial shallow water pond, formed at a flat coastal expanse of ground, within which the solar evaporation of seawater for the extraction of salt takes place. In the 13th and 14th century A.D., saltpanswere already formed at the wider area of Methoni and Koronithat were exploited by the Venetians, since salt trade was a profitable business. There were also saltpans at the seafront of Palaiokastro in Pylos and at the beach of ‘Vromoneri’, which had wild coastal rocks.
Saltpans in these areas are pits that during winter fill with seawater through channels and streams, and in the summer the water evaporates leaving behind the precious spice-mineral. In the past, the locals would use shovels and baskets for the harvest of salt. When there was no salt in the saltpans, they would boilseawater in a copper pot at the shore until the water evaporated.
Nowadays, salt is produced in the Messinian or Outer Mani, especially at the villages Trimesi, Trachilas and Chotassia. The residents involved in the production of salt are called ‘alatolooi’ and the saltpans are called ‘alatotopoi’. Saltpans are located at rocky shores, where the harvest of salt takes place in the natural cavities of the rocks or in artificial cavities (ponds or ‘spitharia’) made on natural rocks. Sea salt extracted from the rocks is called ‘afrala’/’afralatso’ (from the Greek words ‘afros’=foam + alas=salt). The harvest of salt starts in late May and finishes in October, when the first rains appear. The technique of sea salt production follows some stages, which are no different to those followed at the large salt pans such us the salt marshes of Messolonghi.
Through a system of natural or artificial cavities the gradual crystallizationof salt takes place. Initially, large natural cavities (‘portes’/‘thermastres’)within a few meters from the sea, which can contain 50 to 100 buckets of seawater, are filled with waterwith the use of tins. Seawater evaporates by the sun and the salt concentrates (10% salinity). After the salt concentrates, it is transported to other ponds, the so called ‘lekania’, and then goes to sun dryers (‘arniakous’ ot ‘liastes’),i.e. open stone structures away from the sea. When the salt crystallizes, it is rubbed from the ponds with an iron/ hoop and then stirred in order to remove remaining moisture. With the use ofwicker baskets, they carry it to the sun dryers (‘liastres’/’plevres’), i.e. the horizontal or inclined and natural or built surfaces, where the crystallization of salt takes place. Within8 to 10days they transport it injute sacks to their homes.