Putting the environment on the table

A self-described Dead Sea ‘evangelist,’ Ari Fruchter is developing edible salts from the disappearing lake.

Dead Sea products (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dead Sea products
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It has long been known as a place that is steeped in biblical references, providing minerals for spa products and the necessary ingredients for Egyptian mummification. But the Dead Sea is now being used for maybe one of its most obvious purposes – edible salt.
American-born Ari Fruchter, who started his career in highend fashion and art and later transitioned to hi-tech, recently launched Naked Sea Salts, a boutique shop of infused salts for the kitchen.
“I’m not a gourmet salt expert, just one guy who had a crazy idea,” Fruchter says, after explaining that he came up the concept of edible salt from the Dead Sea after scuba diving with a friend in Eilat. He says he started thinking about it and wondered, “Why not ingest it?” After learning that salt is one of the least expensive minerals in the Dead Sea and that large salt piles are left as a byproduct after companies extract other minerals, a light bulb went off. Fruchter says that while some companies have dodged environmental laws at the Dead Sea, he is trying to stay away from the regional councils and politics, and says he wants to focus on the environment through awareness and other avenues.
With the cost of salt disposal at over $1 billion, Fruchter started looking into the process of taking the salt from an inedible state to one in which it could be used in various dishes with spices and other ingredients.
“I wanted to do something that would help the Dead Sea and reach a mass audience,” Fruchter says, explaining that through art and a product that will be used in the kitchen, put on the table and in stomachs, he hopes to do just that.
Naked Sea Salts is not the first project that Fruchter has been involved with that seeks to raise environmental awareness with regard to the Dead Sea.
In 2011, he was instrumental in working with American-Jewish photographer Spencer Tunick in what became a controversial photo shoot, where over 1,000 Israelis were photographed nude at the Dead Sea.
After becoming interested in the environmental impact and the decreasing water levels at the site in 2008, Fruchter helped Tunick scout out the area and has become what he describes as “one of the biggest evangelists to protect the Dead Sea. In my mind I wanted to do something.”
Two years ago, while working with Tunick, the Dead Sea was a Top 10 finalist in the New Seven Wonders of Nature global poll.
According to Fruchter, various government agencies tried to create “unorthodox things to stop it” and almost ended the entire photo installation. With only days to spare, it came through.
Sometimes, he points out, “when you take on insane projects, you get to the top of the mountain and say, ‘What’s next?’” Shying away from politics and government agencies, Fruchter hopes small steps become big cornerstones in helping to protect the environmental degradation of the Dead Sea.
He also believes that this project can help create regional cooperation. Working directly with a Palestinian salt harvester who has been in the family business since 1964, he says the relationship has been “very lovely.” While you can get jaded by what you read in the paper, “it’s not about the politics – it’s about the partnership.”
The two care about the same things and are working to break bread, he says. Moreover, the cooperation “shows a good standard for how we should operate in this region of the world.”
The Dead Sea, which is in fact not a sea but a hypersaline landlocked lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel to the west, is at earth’s lowest elevation – at 423 meters below sea level.
Its main water source is the Jordan River, and it has been receding at levels of about a meter a year.
Known for its buoyancy, many people float in the Dead Sea because of its high salinity – 33 percent – which makes it one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world.
After making just over $60,000 on their initial Kickstarter crowdsourcing campaign goal, Naked Sea Salt has over 1,300 prepurchased orders and is partnering with and donating to the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
The price of the salt is $15 for 110 grams and $20 for 240 grams.
The product is for use in a salt grinder and as a table salt. The products will be sold via e-Commerce and shipping is scheduled to begin by the end of this month.
Working with Alon Lior of 424 Salts in Haifa, who produces edible Dead Sea salts for the masses and sells at stores like Shufersal, the salts that Fruchter is producing are gourmet, high-end sea salts infused with herbs and spices. He says his line will have about 16 different infusions, including salts with sweet orange and chili, kalamata olive and one of his personal favorites, seaweed.
The Dead Sea is one of the world’s most important bodies of water. “Look at the miracles that surround the sea,” he says.
So while you can float in it and get muddy, there will soon be another way – a rather tasty one – to enjoy it.