What would strawberries and cream be like without strawberries? What would pavlova be like without summer berries? What should we do without the world’s most important work force, the bees and bumblebees?
This summer I spent my vacation in Italy, at a resort at the Lake Garda. The resort was filled with rose bushes and tidy hedges and lawns. The scent of roses was wonderful, but something was missing. It was mostly quiet, no buzzing insects, only the sound of a lone blackbird. The only bumblebee I found was dead. At the luscious resort there were no bees, bumblebees or other insects. But I did see gardeners using pesticides, making sure the landscape would be “pretty”.
To bee or not to bee?
A third of the world’s food production depends on pollination from insects. Not only bees and bumblebees are pollinators, but also butterflies, beetles and flower flies. The urban landscape of asphalt deserts, golf gardens and massive industrial and monotonous fields make it difficult for the insects to find a home or food. In addition the pesticides we rely on for our crops kill bees and lead to learning disabilities (and probably in us too).
The historically high death rates of the bees pose a threat to our food production. Already in parts of China they have for decades hand-pollinated fruit orchards. In the US millions of bees are transported each spring to the giant almond orchards of California to pollinate the trees, before they are off to the apple orchards of Washington, the blueberry bushes of New England or the watermelon fields of Texas.
Oslo – the place to bee
So far the bees in Norway have not suffered a collapse but the situation is severe; of our 206 species of bees, 12 have vanished. Several campaigns have been instigated to preserve the bees. Oslo, along with other cities in the world, has seen the rise of urban beekeeping. On the rooftop next to the Food Hall in Oslo, two architectural gems designed by Snøhetta houses two queens and their colony of bees. The Palace Park, which surrounds the Royal Palace, is home to queen Ella and her honeybees, and 20 % of the royal park area has been turned into meadows instead of tidy lawns.
Recently the Pollinator passage was launched by the Norwegian government and ByBI, an oslobased and urban beekeeping organization. The Guardian characterizes the project as “the world’s first ‘highway’ to protect endangered bees”. The project is about making green passages throughout all of Oslo, offering food stations and homes to pollinating insects. Every new bee-friendly home or food supply, e.g. flowers rich in nectar on a balcony or in a park, is then visible on a map with photos and decription about the initiative. Hence at Herligheten allotment garden on a traffic island in the midst of Oslo, they cultivate pollinated potatoes and at the University at Blindern there is a there a runway consisting of crocus flowers. They are all part of a unique and strongly awaited visitor’s guide to Oslo for bees.
Strawberry pavlova (makes 4–5)
Strawberry pavlova is the perfect summer cake. Utterly delicious and easy, the perfect mix between sweet and sour, all because of the beautiful strawberries. This pavlova is a little bit healthier than other pavlovas, because the whipped cream is substituted with Greek yogurt. The strawberries are matched with lime zest, making it both tangy and sweet. The meringue can be made several days in advance, but once you decorate it, it must be used within an hour. There are two types of finished meringue; crisp meringue and chewy meringue. This one is chewy and in order to do so, I add maizena and increase the oven-temperature.
3 organic eggs
140 g caster sugar
1 tsp maizena
1 tsp vinegar
1 punnet strawberries
1 tbsp sugar
400 ml Greek yogurt
2 tbsp confectionary sugar
½ vanilla pod
1. Preheat the oven to 120°C/250°F. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Do use the yolks for custard or pastry cream.
2. Put your egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk until they start to form soft firm peaks, about 1 minute. With your mixer still running, gradually add the sugar, a spoon at a time, making sure the sugar is fully incorporated before adding the next spoon. When the sugar is incorporated, continue mixing for another minute until the meringue is white, glossy and smooth.
3. Add the maizena and vinegar and whisk until just combined.
4. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place a plate about 20 cm (7 inches) in diameter on the paper and trace a circle with a pencil. Spoon the meringue into the circle.
5. Bake for 2 hours, then turn off the temperature and leave the meringue inside with the door ajar until cold.
1. Wash the lime. Wash and hull the strawberries and divide into two. Mix carefully the strawberries with the sugar and grated zest of 3/4 lime.
2. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla pod and mix with the confectionary sugar and yogurt.