In the previous Halacha we have discussed the prohibition to pickle vegetables on Shabbat, for “pickling is like cooking” and just as it is forbidden to cook on Shabbat, it is likewise forbidden to pickle vegetables and the like on Shabbat.
Salting Radish, Onion, and Garlic
Besides for the prohibition to pickle vegetables on Shabbat, our Sages have also prohibited doing things which appear like pickling on Shabbat. It is thus forbidden to salt several pieces of radish, onion, or garlic together on Shabbat, for it is common to pickle them using salt and the salt diminishes some of the vegetable’s sharpness. It is nevertheless permissible to dip a piece of onion in salt on Shabbat and eat it immediately, for in this way, it is noticeable that one is not doing so in order to pickle it and only means to eat it.
Salting a Vegetable Salad
Based on this, a certain Torah scholar deduced that one may not pour salt onto a salad that contains tomatoes on Shabbat, for this appears like he is pickling vegetables, which is forbidden on Shabbat. He quotes the Kaf Ha’Chaim (Chapter 321, Section 19) as ruling accordingly.
However, it seems that one may act leniently in this regard, for it is completely unusual to pickle tomatoes which are in a salad and it is noticeable that one is not doing so in order to pickle them; rather, one is doing so to add some taste to them. Even according to the more stringent opinions, if after one pours salt on top of the salad, one pours some lemon juice or oil (which diminishes the power of the salt) on top, there is no prohibition at all.
Maran zt”l writes (in his Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Part 4, page 457) that those who are stringent and pour some lemon juice or oil on top of the salt are especially praiseworthy. However, according to the letter of the law, one may act leniently in this regard. Even if the salad contains cucumbers which are commonly pickled, it is still permissible to do this for several reasons.
Pouring Sugar onto Fruits
There is likewise a dispute between the luminaries of our generation whether or not one is permitted to pour sugar on top of fruits, such as strawberries and the like, when it is known that the sugar will cause a change in the fruit, similar to pickling. This is especially true since it is common to can fruits in sugar nowadays. If so, it seems that there is room for stringency in this regard.
Nevertheless, halachically speaking, Maran zt”l (ibid. page 457) rules that this is permissible (as long as this is being done in order to eat from the fruits on Shabbat itself), for coating something with sugar does not constitute “salting” at all. The same applies with regards to the laws of salting meat in order to remove the blood from within it where pouring sugar on the meat has no effect at all. If so, there is indeed no comparison between pickling with salt and “pickling” with sugar. Hagaon Harav Ben-Zion Abba Shaul zt”l rules leniently as well (in his Ohr Le’Zion, Volume 2, page 247).
Summary: One may not salt vegetables that are commonly pickled, such as onions, garlic, and the like, on Shabbat. However, it is permissible to dip several pieces one by one and eat them immediately. It is permissible to sprinkle salt over a vegetable salad. Those who are stringent to pour some lemon juice or oil on top of the salt afterwards are especially praiseworthy. It is permissible to pour sugar over strawberries as long as one plans to eat them on Shabbat (so as not to prepare for a weekday on Shabbat).