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An edible stone

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Among the five thousand minerals known to mankind, there is only one stone that we cannot live without. This one is crucial for the human body, same as food or water, but a completely irrelevant one from the perspective of jewellery. Only a century ago, this stone ruled the world. Nowadays, there are thousands of ways of using it - rejuvenate the body, prolong one’s own life, cure a disease, boost the immune system, clean the surfaces, preserve food products, as well as many others.

The scientific name for the world’s only edible mineral is halite, which actually translates from the Greek as ”salt”. This native crystal was used as a currency in Ancient China, in Central Africa it was valued more than gold, and in Ancient Rome one could buy a slave for a couple of pieces of this stone.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Medieval alchemists believed that salt was the fifth essence, while the other four were water, fire, air and earth. Therefore, salt was one of the main ingredients required to create the Philosopher's Stone. Aristotle argued that salt could indicate the true good and true evil. Halite was also mentioned in various tales from around the world as the defender from the dark forces. Thus, in Russian epics, bogatyrs (the heroes of folk Russian legends) always had with them a handful of the local soil and a pinch of salt. Actually, even during the Second World War, Russian soldiers believed in the force of this superstition and acted accordingly.

The Slavic nations consider salt to be a symbol of wealth, fidelity and prosperity, which is also reflected in local proverbs. The most famous one is probably ”Хлеб да соль вашему дому", which could be literally translated as ”Bread and salt to your home”, serving as an expression of good wish towards the host’s household. In Russia, a wedding or a house-warming party would not be complete without a traditional greeting - an offering of a loaf of bread (usually korovai) and a salt-cellar that had to be either placed on top of the bread loaf or secured in a hole on the top of the loaf.

In Poland, near the town of Wieliczka, there is a monument located two hundred meters below the surface. According to the legend, the Hungarian Princess, upon the marriage to a Polish Prince, begged the higher powers to reward the country of her future residence with salt. She threw her wedding ring down one of the mines on her homeland. Some time after that, a thousand kilometres away from that place, the Princess dug a hole in the open field, found her decoration first, and then also a piece of a desired stone. In more recent times, the Princess was elevated to sainthood, and an underground salt town was built in her honour - the one with ballrooms, art galleries, numerous sculptures and a temple.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Pixabay

Scientists have proven that by spending five sessions of forty minutes in the salt room a person may improve one’s own health as well as treat chronic diseases. In fact, salt room therapy may be a substitute to a two-week vacation on the sea coast.

The most popular area of use of salt rock crystals is however cooking. In this case, the color and taste of the mineral are of special importance. The most expensive type of salt is "Fleur de Sel", produced at the seaside area of France. This kind of salt is composed of the first, the most delicate and fragile crystals of salt, gathered from the water surface with the help of a special tool. At the same time, it is important to keep the original structure of the crystals. Therefore, employees working on it are required to undergo special training, which lasts for a few years. A specific feature of this type of salt is that it is impossible to over-salt the food, if it is used. Unsurprisingly, its price is also ten times higher than the price of ordinary table salt. In turn, Filipino variety - "Sugpo Asi" - tastes and smells like shrimps. This salt may be mined only twice a year, during the rain season. However, according to experts, the most nutritious is Himalayan pink salt, as it contains 84 micronutrients, affecting metabolism positively. Such crystals are extracted only in a non-explosive way, thus there are no contaminants in the final product.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

In Ancient times, there was one more use of salt. As the mineral was extremely valuable back then, in China those who dared to counterfeit it, got sentenced to a cruel punishment. Prisoners were fed very salty food whilst they were also restricted in drinking water. A few weeks after that, these people were already in the critical condition, even though there was no visible damage to their bodies.