I expect better from a website called *Tree*hugger

California is running out of water. Almonds take a lot of water to grow. California accounts for 80% of global almond cultivation (and 99% of U.S. production). The obvious conclusion, as the BBC put it, is that “almonds are sucking California dry“. You can tell a similar story about walnuts and pistachios, if you wanted to.

But misguided as that conclusion may be, some people have taken this set of facts as a reason to reduce their overall nut consumption — and, as usual, the internet is here to help them out. Last month, Treehugger published an article titled “5 nuts not grown in California”. It explained, “National almond, walnut and pistachio crops are very thirsty, and predominantly grown in drought-stricken California; if you’re looking for alternatives, consider these.”

Seems reasonable enough. So let’s find out: which five nuts does Treehugger have in mind (cumulative nut count in parentheses)?

1. Hazelnuts

OK, I’ll take it. (1/1)

2. Pecans

Still a nut. So far, so good. (2/2)

3. Pine nuts

Pine nuts are certainly called “nuts”, but they’re really just seeds. They lack the hard shells that partially define nuts. (2/3)

4. Sunflower seeds

The word “seed” is right there in the name. (2/4)

5. Peanuts

Obvious legume is obvious. (2/5)

Now, in Treehugger’s defense, it does state about halfway through the article: “While we’re not straight-out suggesting a boycott of almonds, walnuts and pistachios, we thought it might be prudent to look at nuts (and their stand-ins: seeds and legumes) grown in regions where H2O is a bit more abundant.”

But I’m not just being a grammar nut, see. Word choice matters. And this article totally fails to live up to the promise of its headline, which very clearly pledges nuts, nuts, nuts, nuts, and more nuts. Instead, readers are treated to two nuts and three something elses. You’d think a publication with the word “Tree” in its name would do a better job delivering nuts when it says it will. You would be wrong. Sometimes it will… and sometimes it will nut.

My favorite thing about this whole post is that according to the botanical definition of nut (which requires “that the shell does not open to release the seed”), the only genuine nut mentioned in this post is the hazelnut. Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, and pine nuts all actually fail to meet this technical requirement. I refuse to dignify sunflower seeds and peanuts by again drawing this distinction.


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