Marais salants île de Noirmoutier

SALTERNS

THE WHITE GOLD OF NOIRMOUTIER ISLAND

Salterns are typical of the scenery on Noirmoutier Island, covering a third of the island. They were shaped by man over the course of centuries. The hundred or so salt makers on the island perpetuate their high-quality ancestral know-how. The 100% natural salt is harvested in accordance with traditions. Dive into the heart of this magical world.

SALT MARCHES, AN INCREDIBLE NATURAL RESOURCE

There is something magical about seeing salt emerge from the clay of the marshes:

 

1. The seawater circulates through a network of meticulously maintained channels and pools. As the water evaporates, the concentration of salt rises during a slow course that takes 48 hours to complete, increasing from 35 to 300 grams per litre.

 

2. The coarse salt then crystallizes and settles at the bottoms of œillets, clay pools where workers harvest the salt. When the summer is at its hottest and an easterly wind blows, delicate crystals of fleur de sel (fine sea salt) shimmer at the surface of the œillets. Crystallized at the surface of the water, it is white with a unique flavour.

 

3. Gently collected using a lousse (a sort of skimmer), the salt is then placed on tables, in baskets, to naturally dry under the sun.

Marais salant - île de Noirmoutier - Joncheray

Salterns - île de Noirmoutier - Joncheray

A QUICK HISTORY LESSON

In the 5th century, Benedictine monks began to transform the island’s wetlands into salterns through major drainage work. The booming trade in this “white gold” during the 16th to 18th centuries was a real advantage for the island’s economy up until the 1970s. After a period of decline (just 34 salt makers in 1990), the revival has since been assured by young producers.

 

Today, 3,000 œillets are operated by about 100 salt makers, some of them members of the cooperative, harvesting the pure “white gold” by traditional methods. Close to 3,000 tonnes of sea salt are harvested in a normal year, although the yield is completely dependent on the weather.

Les marais salants - île de Noirmoutier - Alexandre Lamoureux

Salternes of l'île de Noirmoutier - Alexandre Lamoureux

Visiter un marais salant - Marais les Angibauds - Jean-Sébastien Evrard

VISIT THE SALTERNS IN SUMMERTIME

Interested in watching the salt makers employ traditional techniques? You can do it all summer long and into early autumn on Noirmoutier Island! Take advantage of a guided tour, or simply stop outside the salt huts lining the roads and attracting other curious onlookers. The producers are waiting to share their know-how and sell you their goods direct.

 

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Marais salés - île de Noirmoutier - Joncheray

WHAT ABOUT LOW SEASON?

In low season, the salterns are not in operation, so they return to their status of salt marshes. They are then used for livestock farming along the raised sections separating the pools and ditches. A large portion of the land, formerly reclaimed from the sea, is still irrigated using saltwater. Seawater usually circulates to meet the needs of salt farming, shellfish farming and fish farming. The place where it stops circulating is where the river marsh begins, cover just 10 or so hectares on the island.

 

Frequented by hundreds of species of sedentary and migratory birds, that alternate depending on the season, the salt marshes offer multiple possibilities for observing wildlife. Grey herons, gulls, little egrets and sacred ibises can only be admired if you are ready and willing to respect the marshland and remain silent.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Calorges are dry stone huts where salt makers would rest during the hottest hours of the day and where they would store their tools.
  • Noirmoutier Island’s mills, made almost entirely of wood, were designed to drain the rainwater at the end of winter to allow salt makers to prep their salterns. They were built around 1920 and have since been abandoned in favour of motor drive pumps.
  • Esseppes are flat stones installed vertically near the entrance to the meadows. They are typically pierced with three round holes, into which wooden rods were inserted for use as a gate.
Marais salant - île de Noirmoutier

Salterns - île de Noirmoutier

Marais salant - Oeillet - île de Noirmoutier - JS Evrard

Les marais salants de l'île de Noirmoutier - Un monde à part

SALTERNS OF THE ISLAND IN PICTURES