You may be familiar with table salt, Kosher salt, or sea salt, but have you heard of Peru´s Maras salt – sal de Maras (also known as Peruvian pink salt)?
The salt of Maras is considered rose colored gold. It has good properties for the benefit of our bodies and a wonderful flavor. Over the years, it has become a favored ingredient of Peruvian chefs and within Peru´s exciting gastronomy.
The name, sal de Maras, is attributed to the place where the salt is extracted. Maras is a town at 11,090 feet (3,380 meters) above sea level in the Sacred Valley of the Cusco region. The salt ponds were built in AD200-AD900 by the Chanapata culture, pre-dating the Incas, and are known in Quechua as Kachi Raqay. There are about 5,000 ponds which were used to supply the entire Inca Empire as well as the Viceroyalty of Peru. The salt held great importance for ancient Peruvian cultures as it was not only used for flavoring food, but also for medicinal purposes as these beautiful pinkish crystals are 100% natural.
But how did it all start? Usually, salt ponds form near the ocean, meaning Maras was once covered by one. Each pond is usually 54 square foot (5 square meters) and has a 12 inch (30 centimeters) depth. An ancient spring water canal called Qoripujio feeds the ponds through a network of slimmer channels that cross the complex, so when keepers want to fill theirs, all they have to do is open a notch to allow the salty water to come in. Once the pond is full, keepers leave it to dry in the arid Andean weather until the spring water evaporates completely. After it’s all dried up, the scraping of the pink salt crust begins – just how it was done centuries ago.
The salt mines have traditionally been available to any person wishing to harvest salt. The owners of the salt ponds must be members of the community, and families that are new to the community wishing to propitiate a salt pond are generally assigned one of the ponds farthest from the community. The size of the salt pond assigned to a family depends on the family’s size. Usually, there are many unused salt pools available to be farmed. Any prospective salt farmer needs only to locate an empty currently unmaintained pond, consult with the local cooperative, learn how to properly keep a pond within the accepted communal system, and start working.
The sal de Maras is known as the healthiest and most nutritious salt on the planet, and can only be found in the Andes and the Himalayas. Health benefits of this mineral powerhouse include:
• It can help stabilize and regulate the heartbeat, thanks to its magnesium and sodium content.
• Its sodium is essential for proper muscular function.
• Good quality salt helps minimize the effects of stress by maintaining proper melatonin, serotonin, and tryptamine levels in the brain.
• It helps remove cellular acidity, especially in the brain and kidneys and it helps prevent osteoporosis.
• It provides a buffer for blood sugar levels to help prevent diabetes or to help those who are diabetic use less insulin.
• It provides iodine in a natural setting, making it easier for your thyroid to absorb it and to regulate the endocrine system.
Do not miss a chance to visit this natural and historic wonder when you are exploring the Sacred Valley in Peru. Of course, there are many ruins to visit and mountains to trek, but the Maras salt ponds are out of this world and a truly intriguing sight!