In the UK, other parts of northern Europe and the US, the sight of a man sporting a wicker basket — cesta in Spanish, senalla in Mallorcan — is highly uncommon. Here it’s a sign that its owner doesn’t just appreciate island traditions but has realised that cestas are highly practical.
If you’ve been a guest of Charles Marlow in one of our rentals, you’ll have received a cesta packed with goodies.
Our cestas come from C’as Carrier in Sóller. Ca’s Sarrier has existed in Sóller since 1916 and has been in the Bernat family since 1941. So it’s safe to say that Gracia of C’as Sarrier is somewhat of a cesta expert. Gracia was delighted to share her knowledge with us.
Traditional cestas are made from the leaves of the palmito, the Mediterranean dwarf palm or European fan palm. Palmitos are found in North Africa as well as in the driest parts of the Mediterranean. The variety of palmito found in Mallorca is called garballó.
If the palmito used in a cesta comes from North Africa, it’s bleached by being soaked in ammonia. Should it be garballó from Mallorca, it will have been bleached in sulphur, giving it a lighter colour.
Apart from their lighter colour, cestas made in Mallorca are made using iron rivets and not white thread.
Nowadays, handles or straps tend to be made of leather and attached to the top edges of the cesta. In the past, they were hemp rope and woven into the underneath of the basket so it could hold more weight.
Most of the cestas on sale at C’as Sarrier are made on the island at Pollença, Artà and Capdepera.
Capdepera, a small Mallorcan town in the northeast of the island is one of the few places in Mallorca where garballó grows. If you’re ever in this ancient town, look for the museum dedicated to the master craftsmen of the llata, the trade of making things using palmito.
Some of the baskets in Ca’s Sarrier also come from Palma and Campanet.
Cestas are becoming increasingly fashionable, partly because they’re a sign of going native, but also because they’re environmentally friendly.
Mallorcan cestas are made from natural elements, handmade and the process doesn’t involve using lots of chemicals. And, given that a cesta costs around €40 and can last for years, they’re also excellent value for money.