Sea salt is seawater-evaporated salt which is refined and manufactured on a commercial scale. It is employed for cooking, baking, cosmetics, and for preserving edible food. It's also known as solar salt, Red Sea salt crusted salt. Its name came from the Greek word kerassa, which meant "seabird's beak".
Unlike mined sea salt which comes straight from the earth, sea salt is obtained by evaporating seawater into a dry dust. In most cases, sea salt is harvested by channelling large amounts of water to the sea floor and then filtering it through a sea bed where large concentrations of dissolved material may occur. There are two different ways to process sea salt. One method uses high pressure to draw material from the ocean floor and another uses a low pressure tank to circulate the sand around a spinning drum where the air is replaced by sea salt (or evaporated sea salt).
As compared to mined salt which comes straight out of the ground, sea salt is much less processed and is usually obtained from a wetland area. It's also less expensive and is considered to be a "green" product. It's most commonly available on grocery and health food stores and in some pharmacies. Salt is an ideal way to season any number of cuisines. It can be added to marinades, stir-fried foods, baked foods, vegetables, meats and even dessert.
There is an old sea salt tradition associated with the harvesting of this natural resource. Legend has it that when King Solomon returned from his voyages, he took with him some sea salt. The king had no use for the salt at first since it was so fresh, but eventually began to use it for his table. Legend says that his ministers were ridiculed because they were not aware of the salt's healing properties. To prove their worth, King Solomon supposedly poured some salt onto his meals which cured his rheumatism and allowed him to sit for hours.
Because sea salt naturally has a high concentration of magnesium, potassium and sodium in it, its use became popular for medicinal purposes. During the 1800s, many early doctors used sea salt as an alternative to table salt. As more research was conducted regarding the mineral's healing properties, it was discovered that using sea salt shaker or salt boxes regularly could lower blood pressure. This is the salt that was used in the American "medical salt" of the day, the first commercially produced salt substitute.
Today, sea salt and table salt are still sometimes used interchangeably. This is especially true with the growing demands for these products from restaurants and catering services. It's often used as a sports bar supplement or in a blender, due to its high magnesium content. When buying a salt crystal, make sure that its colour is close to that of sea salt and table salt (it's usually darker). Salt crystals should be stored in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate them if you want to take them on long trips or in the case of emergencies.
As its popularity increased among food industry professionals, many companies began to produce a chemically engineered salt to mimic sea salt. Today, there are many forms of this salt including magnesium-free and sodium-free ones. But one of the most important things to remember is that no salt can actually replace the taste and health benefits of real sea salt. If you want to take it to achieve the same flavour, try to use the healthier chemically engineered varieties.
Also, keep in mind that less sea salt comes from the Western world than Eastern countries. For instance, Japanese sea salt comes from the Sea of Japan to European table salt comes from salt mines in Poland. While the Western world tends to use more chemical-free products, the East tends to use more natural materials such as sea weeds and sea kelp. The benefits of using natural salt include its higher concentration of minerals and sodium, its longer shelf life and its ability to balance the mineral and sodium levels in your system.