Totally Nutty

Fact: It takes a gallon of water to grow a single almond.

You might be basking in your eco-warrior glory every morning as you pour almond milk instead of cows’ milk on your cereal, but it turns out that almonds also have a lot to answer for.

Almonds grow best in hot, Mediterranean climates – in other words, places where water is not always abundant. In commercial almond farms, extensive irrigation is required to provide the trees with enough water. In this case, enough is 1 gallon (or 4.5 litres) per nut, which leaves a bitter taste when you consider that almond farms are often in areas where water is a precious resource. Take California as an example – the source of almost all of US-grown almonds, yet it has been officially ‘in a drought’ since 2012.

Almonds aren’t the only incredibly thirsty plants around. A single walnut needs a massive 19 litres of water, which suddenly makes a Waldorf salad seem like the most excessive starter of all time. Broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, grapes… all grow in hot environments and yet require a huge amount of water, and so our normal diets have a pretty big (and invisible) water bill attached to them.

If you want to hold your head high among the most die-hard of environmentalists, forgo the almond milk. Try switching to oat milk instead – it’s the most environmentally friendly milk we have, and my is it delicious.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license.

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