Harvesting salt from the land is an ancient practice in Goa, one that predates the Portuguese by centuries. Not long ago, wide open spaces of salt pans graced the Goan countryside. Specific villages and sub-communities – such as the mithgaude (“mith” being the Konkani word for salt) – specialized in the occupation of salt farming.
As is now well known, Goa is being rapidly third-worldized. With their lands and homes under pressure from the real estate juggernaut, the traditional salters are now on their last legs. This going to seed of Goa‘s salt culture has been documented by Reyna Sequeira of Goa University (I haven’t read her thesis but am well aware of her conclusions).
It didn’t have to be this way. The salt harvested in Goa is renowned for its flavour and is a vital condiment in every traditional Goan kitchen. No Goan cook worth her salt will touch the packaged rubbish sold in stores. An American entrepreneur would have marketed Goan salt crystals in an attractive bottle, slapped the “Organic” label on it, and made a lot of money, and maybe saved the tradition in the process.
I recall my young days when farmers in bullock carts laden with salt went door to door during these final days of May before the arrival of the pre-monsoon showers. This coincided with the festival of purumento (“purumetachem fest”), a seasonal open bazaar where folks stocked up on provisions for the coming season.