WHENEVER I’m flying home and the plane passes over the south end of San Francisco Bay, my eyes can’t linger long enough over its startling patches of orange and red.
They’re sea salt ponds, cultivated to produce pure snow-white sodium chloride for industry and for the table. The colors in the ponds come from unusual microbes that thrive in the evaporating brine and produce pigments to cope with the intense sunlight.
A few months ago I finally encountered the colors of that briny life up close, in a jar of salt from the Murray River region in southeastern Australia. The remains of salt-loving bacteria and algae give the crystals a beautiful pink blush and a faint, pleasant aroma.
These days, salts come from all over the world, in many hues and crystal forms and textures. But this welcome blizzard is borne on a whirlwind of obfuscatory hype.