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Places

A sustainable guide to the food of Mallorca

All around the world, responsible travelers are embracing the concept of sustainable tourism more than ever. Mallorca is emerging as a top destination for -eco-minded travelers and the slow food trend.

Every year, some 15 million tourists flock to the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza. They come in search of the glittering blue waters of spectacular coves and beaches and the quiet serenity of the lush, green countryside. But there’s only so much tourist traffic a small island like Mallorca can handle, before the shine starts to come off the breathtaking natural beauty that lured travelers here in the first place.

“Here in Mallorca, we don’t need more tourists, we need conscientious tourists,” says Philipp Baier, cofounder of Cleanwave, a sustainability initiative that seeks to reduce single-use plastic bottles by making drinking water freely accessible across the Balearic -Islands. “We want responsible people who’ll leave the place the way they found it.”

Företaget Cleanwave sales waterbottles that can be refilled for free at over 70 different places on the Balearic islands. Photo: Oliver Martin

1,5 million platstic bottles are thrown away everyday

Founded in 2017, Cleanwave is the brainchild of Baier, originally from Germany, and his Danish wife Line Hadsbjerg. The company sells bottles that can be filled up with drinking water for free at any of its 70 refill -stations across the Balearic Islands.

“Our stations can be found in restaurants, gyms, yoga studios, hotels and public places. With 30,000 bottles in use across the Balearics, we’re reducing plastic bottle waste one user at a time,” Baier says.

At present, 1.5 million plastic beverage bottles are consumed and discarded daily in the Balearics. However, Baier believes change is in the air, driven by popular demand for a greener future.

Cleanwave strive to lessen the use of plastic bottles that only gets used once. Photo: Oliver Martin“In the past few years we’ve seen increased interest from both the local authorities and the tourism sector – mainly thanks to growing consumer interest in sustainable solutions,” Baier continues. “Here in -Mallorca, we have an opportunity to create a benchmark for sustainable tourism.”

As Mallorca’s community of planet-conscientious locals and visitors grows, so too does demand for all kinds of sustainable products – from organic food and wine, to artisanal goods and slow-food restaurants.

Carlos Feliu has been producing organic extra virgin olive oil at the Son Naava olive grove near the small town of Montuiri since 1998. In 2010, the land was purchased by Ivan Levy, an entrepreneur from Switzerland, and the two set up Son Naava, which now produces some of the highest quality biodynamic extra virgin oil made on the island. Set among the idyllic rolling hills of the countryside in the agricultural heart of Mallorca, where the soil is rich and bountiful, Son Naava’s olive oil is made from hand-grown, organic Arbequina olives, with their distinguishing earthy, aromatic flavor. 

“When you use herbicides and pesticides for short-term productivity, it ruins the biodiversity of the soil, resulting in a fruit weak in minerals and nutrition. But we’re not here for the short-term gains, we’re in it for the long haul,” Feliu says, adding that he believes the market for organic, sustainable products on Mallorca started growing due to the type of visitors coming to the island.

At Son Naava, they produce some of the highest quality extra virgin olive oil on the island. Photo: Oliver Martin

“People from Northern Europe and other places understand this mentality and philosophy. Even -before there was much awareness in the local market, they were the ones driving the change,” he adds.

Mallorcas first Demeter-certified wine producer

Mesquida Mora changed to an organic production in 2007. Photo: Oliver Martin.

Down the road at the Mesquida Mora winery, fourth-generation winemaker Bàrbara Mesquida Mora made the shift to organic, biodynamic production in 2007. Mesquida Mora thereby became the first winery in Mallorca to be Demeter certified.

“We need to work with nature, not against it. By -producing the best quality, tastiest grapes without any pesticides, we’re also maintaining the richness of our soil, increasing the quantity of organic material and minimizing erosion. It’s all about respect for the product, the environment and our customers,” Mesquida Mora says.

An organic citrus farm

About an hour north of Montuiri, in the Sóller valley, not far from the dazzling aquamarine waters of the seaside town that shares its name, lies the Ecovinyassa citrus farm. The rugged Tramuntana mountain range provides a dramatic backdrop to the farm, which Sebastiana Massanet inherited from her parents and now runs with her husband Joan Puigserver. Ecovinyassa has been organic since 2010.

“For us, it was a question of values – we simply believed it was the right thing to do,” she says. “As a result, our oranges and lemons are sweeter and tastier, and far more nutritious.”

Massanet admits it can be hard to make organic -farming profitable, but she keeps the farm going by arranging guided tours and tastings for visitors, as well as through sales of her spectacularly delicious, homemade marmalades and chutneys.

A lemon grove at the Ecovinyassa citrus farm in Sóller. Photo: Oliver Martin.

The increasing availability of local, organic produce on Mallorca also spells good news for the slow-food restaurants on the island. Led by the likes of Es Taller in the impossibly picturesque medieval town of Valldemossa, and Ca na Toneta, located across the Tramuntana mountains in Caimari, the movement for local, seasonal and organic produce is steadily gaining momentum.

At Es taller dishes with roots from South America and influences from Mallorca are served. Photo: Oliver Martin.

Chef Maria Solivellas co-founded the Balearic branch of the worldwide Slow Food movement in 2007 and has never looked back. She now runs Ca na Toneta restaurant, originally founded by her mother Catalina Rotger, together with her two sisters, Teresa and Cati. The food at Ca na Toneta is strictly seasonal, based almost entirely on local, organic products, much of which comes from the family farm, while the rest is provided by a close-knit network of small, island-based producers, from livestock herders to farmers, fishermen and winemakers. The result is a tasting menu consisting of either six or nine exquisitely balanced dishes, in which the freshness, quality and flavor of the produce take pride of place.

“In Mallorca, we’ve slowly allowed our culinary -heritage to be eroded by tourist culture. We’re trying to rediscover our roots – preparing honest food, based on the recipes and ingredients that are indigenous to our land,” Solivellas says.

At Es Taller, owner and chef Nico Gago Aubert serves a selection of beautifully executed, contemporary dishes, blending his South American roots with his adopted Mallorcan influences. As someone who produces many of the vegetables and all of the herbs he serves in his own garden, Aubert believes a tomato is the simplest -example of why organic produce is better.

“Compare the taste explosion of an organic tomato with one from the supermarket. The latter has no smell, no flavor, no acidity, no sweetness, and, most likely, a fraction of the nutrients of a natural tomato. People come to my restaurant for the quality and flavor of the food I serve,” he explains.

At Es Taller many of the vegetables and herbs are picked on the own garden. Photo: Oliver Martin.

In May this year, Aubert installed a Cleanwave water refill station at Es Taller. He says we all have to take responsibility for the impact we make on the planet.

Philipp Baier is quick to agree. “If you come here and leave the environment cleaner than you found it you’re already doing well,” he says. “If every one of 
our 15 million tourists picks up three pieces of rubbish from the beach, we’ll soon be able to see the difference.”

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