Children’s Gardening

The Salt of the Earth,

By —— Bio and Archives--October 15, 2007

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The City of Windsor, Ontario is renown for many things. Auto manufacturing centre, major casino, magnificent promenades along the flanking Detroit River. Not visible, hundreds of metres below the city are its salt mines.

Over the next few months many tonnes of this salt – sodium chloride or NaCl if you want to get technical – will likely end up on highways, roads and sidewalks near you. Salt, however, is both highly corrosive and a serious pollutant. With the exception of a very few unusual ones, it is toxic to plants of all kinds: trees, shrubs, evergreens, perennials, annuals, lawns – you name it.

So why use it? It’s a tradeoff. Salt is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep both vehicle and pedestrians moving safely. There are other choices but they may be more costly, increase corrosion or pollution – or all three. Worse yet, they may not be as effective under all anticipated winter conditions.

Salt, however has gained a bad name because in the past it was used far too heavily. Certain people still spread it lavishly. They are not to be described as “the salt of the earth.”

Still, when complaints any being used are heard, “take it with a grain of salt.” They are “below the salt” – an expression meaning one who is in an inferior, subordinate or downright servile position. They are definitely not “worth their weight in salt.”

If there are so many saying attached to it, you can rest assured salt plays a very important role in health and industry. The main source of sodium and its compounds, it finds use in the making of glass, pottery, textiles, dyes, soaps, and in preservation of foods.

It is also useful around the house. Spilt fish fertilizer on your hands? Rub them with plenty of salt to take that odour away. It is also good at removing stains from vases and coffee pots. These and other useful tips are listed at http://www.windsor.salt.com

Nothing there about natron, another kind of salt, though. Technically hydrous sodium carbonate, it absorbs moisture very easily. This appealed to the ancient Egyptians. They used to make their famous mummies. The Windsor Salt Co. Ltd. is, rather unsurprisingly, not terribly interested in suggesting their product be used for such.

Roman soldiers were paid a salarium for their salt from the Latin sal, salt. Today it has become a salary. In B.C., the ocean was referred to as salt chuck while to Australians a saltie still is the extremely dangerous saltwater crocodile.

And the British lost India in part from salt. Vital in hot-climate diets, they insisted on maintaining a monopoly on its production, making it a crime for native Indians to do so. The pacifist leader Gandhi led his people to defy the British ban of salt-making. Pretty soon the Great White Raj was finito.

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Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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