There are very few working salt pans left in Malta but it’s part of the national heritage and historically important. The harvesting of salt in Malta has continued for centuries. It dates back to the Roman times and became popular during the time of the Knights of St. John. Its large scale production started in the 19th century, especially in Salina Bay.
The production of sea salt has been passed down through the same families, who have kept the tradition for many generations. Members of these families work through hot summer days scraping up the salt crystals to be stored and processed in the caves that have been carved into the coastal rock in the cliffs behind them.
The salt pans along the coastline are filled with sea water to be evaporated by the hot sun leaving behind the crystalline salt to be collected and eventually sold. The weather controls salt production, for example, the northerly winds dry up the water faster. There are around 40 salt pans remaining around Malta. Il-Blata tal-Melħ is one of the more famous ones, literally translated as ‘Salt Rock.’ There are a few salt pans used for harvesting sea salt as part of the century-old Malta tradition—in Marsascala in the south and Xwejni and Wied il-Għasri in Gozo. The season of salt production is open from May to September, depending on the weather. Salt pans can be visited and a demonstration is given to tourists.
What is the ideal season for sea salt harvesting in Malta?
Between May and September, Malta is perfect for sea salt harvesting when the weather is hot and dry. This is when the evaporation process is quicker due to the northerly winds which speed things up in the salt pans. Show more
What are some well-known locations for observing sea salt harvesting in Malta?
Il-Blata tal-Melħ is likely the most well-known salt pan in Mellieħa village in northern Malta, and there are other salt pans in Marsascala, Xwejni, and Wied il-Għasri in Gozo, the small island within the Maltese archipelago. Watching sea salt harvesting is a favored activity by tourists in Malta. Show more
How long has sea salt harvesting been active in Malta?
Since the Roman Empire and continuing into the reign of the Knights of St. John from 1530 until 1798, sea salt harvesting has been a part of Malta's culture and history. In the 19th century, mining salt from the sea became a large industry in Malta with over 1000 workers in Salina Bay, among others. Show more
Can visitors join in the actual sea salt harvesting process in Malta?
Tourists can watch demonstrations of how sea salt is manually harvested and explore the salt pans. It is a common and captivating tourist activity in Malta. Visitors can purchase local sea salt straight from the salt pans, which are said to be high-quality and have a unique flavor. But, actual participation in the labor-intensive process of salt-making may not be permitted. Show more
In taste and texture, how do sea salt and table salt extracted from mines vary?
Sea salt is gathered from evaporated seawater and contains minerals and natural elements, such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium, which are excluded from table salt due to its chemical processing. Sea salt is thought to be coarser in texture due to its larger crystals. Some believe that sea salt has a more intricate and smooth taste profile compared to table salt, which can come across as harsher in flavor. Show more