NUTS It takes five gallons of water to grow a walnut. (Photo by Pierre Ratte)

Last week, it was cheese. This week, it’s nuts. No, not crazy. Not nutty. Nuts—like almonds, like walnuts and pistachios. 

Much was made of almonds’ water usage, requiring one gallon per nut. Whoa! That is a lot of water! A question might be: Compared to what? 

The fact of the matter is crops in California, more or less, require three acre-feet of water. Three acre-feet equals one acre of land, with standing water three feet high, or approximately 1 million gallons. 

That million gallons does many things: It goes back into the ground, transpires to the atmosphere, grows the tree, leafs out the tree, produces flowers and finally produces fruit, which might be nuts. 

A million gallons per acre helps Mother Nature and farmers fill supermarket shelves with fresh fruit and vegetables week after week. 

For context on water usage, consider the following: 1 almond = 1 gallon, 1 pistachio = 2 gallons, 1 walnut = 5 gallons, 1 orange = 13 gallons, 1 apple = 18 gallons, 1 pound of alfalfa hay = 100 gallons. Poor little almond seems maligned.

It’s been a long rainy winter. Mother Nature is smiling. The hills are ever so green. The reservoirs are filled. Streams are flowing.

Nutty fun facts: 

Almonds: CA: 1.37 million acres, producing 2.8 billion pounds; 80% of world and 100% of domestic supply. Spain and Iran, the next largest growers, produce: 0.7 billion pounds combined. Almond trees take about three to four years to harvest a crop. Average economic life span is 20-25 years. 

Walnuts: CA: 400,000 acres, producing 720,000 tons; 14% of world and 100% of domestic supply. Top producing countries by tons: China (2.5 million), U.S. (720,000), Iran (320,000), Turkey (225,000), Mexico (170,000) and Ukraine (126,000). Walnut trees take about 8-10 years to produce a crop, with an average economic life of 35 years. 

Pistachios: CA: 375,000 acres, producing 500,000 tons; 75% of world and 100% of domestic supply. Top producing countries by tons:  U.S. (500,000), Iran (135,000), Turkey (25,000), Syria (8,000), EU (4,000). Pistachios are pollinated by the wind, not bees. It takes a pistachio tree five to seven years to produce a harvestable crop, and 15-20 years to reach full production.  Pistachio trees’ lifespan can reach 100 years.

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