Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.
Are we handling the bee crisis all wrong?
Scientists are discovering that wild bees are far better pollinators than honeybees, which dominate commercial agriculture, according to FERN’s latest story. But that discovery, which coincides with a worldwide collapse in pollinator numbers, spotlights a “desperate need” for new approaches to farming that work with these wild bees, writes Rowan Jacobsen. In one study that “blew up the conventional wisdom … [w]ild insects increased fruiting in every single farm where they were present, but honeybees only produced a significant increase in fruiting 14 percent of the time.”
California Sunday Magazine
Forget Red and Golden Delicious. The future of apples will be dominated by “value-added” hybrids — Jazz, Envy, Pacific Rose, etc. — and the most hyped one yet, “the largest launch of a single produce item in American history,” is coming this fall: “The Cosmic Crisp has flesh that’s creamy white, is so dense that the apple feels heavy in your hand, and has a flavor that is pleasant, a bit more sweet than zing,” writes Brooke Jarvis. “Most important, it cleaves cleanly in your mouth — a crunch that lasts a long time in controlled-atmosphere storage, all the way around the calendar and into the next harvest season.”
The nation’s snack bar manufacturers are battling for consumers’ attention, mostly jostling for the recognition of healthiest bar. Kind Bar is leading the way, going so far as to petition the Food and Drug Administration to change its nutrition standards for packaging health claims. “The ongoing feud demonstrates how much is at stake in the fight for snackers’ allegiances, how much uncertainty persists in food-labeling and nutritional guidelines, and how a few words here and there can dictate which bar will be left standing,” writes Ben Paynter.
It turns out that the freeze-dried “space ice cream” sold in so many gift shops has never actually been to space. Food consumed by astronauts must be “crumble-free, lightweight, easy to prepare and consume, long-lasting with no need for refrigeration and nutritious enough to sustain an astronaut throughout their space duties,” writes Sarah-Grace Mankarious. It may not always sound the most appetizing, though: On his trip to space in 1962, John Glenn stayed nourished by “squeezing puréed beef with vegetables from an aluminum tube.”
The Washington Post
In Caracas, Venezuela, Randall Sevilla is fighting against all odds to keep his pastry shop alive amid the country’s economic collapse. With hyper-inflation driving many from the country, Sevilla is determined to stay and keep up his baking as long as possible. “El Dulce caters to those with an expendable income, including the rich and dwindling middle class (about 4 million people, out of a nationwide population of 37 million),” writes Simran Sethi. Unpredictable ingredient costs, power outages, and the threat of losing running water all make business difficult for Sevilla. “Would Sevilla and his brother consider leaving? If the political environment worsens, yes. But they don’t want to. They love their country; they know its potential.”