Sorry about your lawn

I know almonds suck up a lot of California's water, but I'm not giving them up

(Image credit: iStock)

Sorry, California: I'll give up my almonds only when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers. Environmental and policy scolds have been complaining that almonds are among the thirstiest crops in the drought-ravaged state's Central Valley, with each almond greedily sucking up a gallon of water before it's harvested and shipped to my breakfast table. In an article headlined "Your Contribution to the California Drought," The New York Times last week placed my favorite nut third on a list of agricultural offenders. (Walnuts and pistachios, which I also often gobble, are wicked, too.) Now, I know you Californians are taking shorter showers and letting your lawns go brown because of water hogs like me. But let's be reasonable. Almonds are delicious and packed with nutrients, and research shows that eating them regularly aids in weight maintenance, improves cardiovascular health, and leads to longer life. What's more important, your lawn or my heart?

To insulate myself from almond shaming, I've immersed myself in articles proving what I prefer to believe: Almonds are good for California. First of all, almonds have become the state's most valuable agricultural product, contributing $6.4 billion to the economy. Alfalfa, which is grown as animal feed, actually uses up more of the state's water than nuts. And if you add up all the water used to create food for cows, the meat and dairy industries are far more inefficient. One measly ounce of beef takes 106 gallons of water to produce! So to offset my almond footprint, I hereby resolve to give up one cheeseburger a month, and to swear off eating alfalfa altogether. It's a small sacrifice to make for my Californian friends, and besides, alfalfa tastes awful.

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William Falk

William Falk is editor-in-chief of The Week, and has held that role since the magazine's first issue in 2001. He has previously been a reporter, columnist, and editor at the Gannett Westchester Newspapers and at Newsday, where he was part of two reporting teams that won Pulitzer Prizes.