Q: Kansas produces 3 million tons of this each year. It has more than 14,000 uses and plants and animals couldn't exist without it. What IS it?
Kansas has an abundant and valuable supply of salt, left here hundreds of millions of years ago, after large inland seas evaporated. The U.S. Geological Survey says Kansas produces more than 3 million tons of it each year in places like Hutchinson, Lyons and Kanopolis. Salt has more than 14,000 uses, from de-icing our roads to softening our water. Salt is important to sustaining all plant and animal life, including human life. In ancient times, salt was so valuable, it was often used to pay Roman soldiers - at least those who were "worth their salt." In fact, salt and salary are closely related. The Latin word for salt is sal. The via Salaria, or salt road, was one of the main roads running through ancient Rome, believed to have been established during the Bronze Age. But it wasn't just the Romans who valued salt. It was of high value to other peoples of antiquity, including the Hebrews, Greeks and the Chinese.
Fun fact: Salt is also the only rock we eat. But of all the salt used in the United States, just 4% of it is eaten.
Want to tour an underground salt mine in Kansas? You can at the Strataca Museum in Hutchinson.
LET'S HEAR IT FOR SALT
Salt in the shaker, salt in the sea
There's so much salt, it's practically free
We mine it from caverns for all sorts of uses
On ice-covered streets, in vegetable juices
It's sprinkled on fries and added to dough
Abundant in restaurants wherever we go
We can buy it in granules or buy it in rocks
We can buy it in feed stores in big salty blocks
Cows like it, kids like it, bartenders too
If we didn't have salt, what would we do?
We might slide in the street or sink in Salt Lake
Stop eating popcorn, stop eating steak
We wouldn't have dolphins or swordfish or whales
We wouldn't have starfish or lobsters with tails
Those creatures need salt, they can't live without it
And we need it too, there's no doubt about it
It's elemental, essential, like water and air
A chemical component of bones, blood and hair
So, let's hear it for salt! In shakers and sea
Let's hear it for salt, in salt mines and me!
Kansas Authors Club