Sultans of Salt
Harvesting Sea Salt on Vancouver Island
Jeff Abel takes us on a tour of Saltwest Naturals Sea Salt Harvestry on Vancouver Island, where he and his partner, Jessica Abel, use steam evaporation to harvest flaked fleur de sel and fine grain sea salt. The tour includes a look into Saltwest’s unique solar greenhouses, which produce sun-dried sea salt—a rarity in Canada’s Pacific maritime climate.
The Abels began their salt harvestry in 2011. At the time, Jessica was looking to start a food-based business. Living near the southwest tip of Vancouver Island, surrounded by pristine beaches and rugged waters, the Abels naturally looked to the sea. Jeff, a weekend fisherman, started bringing home buckets of seawater on his boat, and Jessica soon found herself evaporating the seawater over a stovetop to crystallize salt.After a year-and-a-half of regularly selling out at farmers markets, and seeing the growing public interest in artisan sea salt, the Abels decided to go “all in.” Jeff quit his job; they sold their house, and moved out to an acreage in Otter Point, near Sooke, BC.
With a background in pipe fitting and construction, Jeff hand-built all of the infrastructure on the site: a new home, the commercial kitchen, the salt harvesting facilities, and two solar greenhouses.
Saltwest is one of a handful of artisan sea salt producers in Canada, and is the only commercial solar sea salt harvester in Western Canada.