Bags of water: Last winter Sara and I took a hiking vacation in Arizona. We flew into Phoenix, rented a car, and then drove out of town, east, into the mountains. On our way out we stopped at a market to pick up a few extra comestibles and also needing a water bottle to carry with me in the days to come, I grabbed a bottle of water. Brand or price wasn’t important to me – I was looking for something that was large, sturdy, and would fit in the external pocket of my backpack.
It wasn’t until that evening, camped high on a pass in the Superstition Mountains, observing a beautiful smog-enhanced sunset that I noticed I had carried water from the island of Fiji up into the desert mountains of Arizona. I marveled at the technical ability of a society that could transport artesian water from a Pacific island in a plastic bottle five or six thousand miles, and the culture that would support such an economic endeavor.
I thought about that bottle from Fiji long after the water was gone because I continued to fill it with local Superstition Wilderness water for the next five or six days. Fortunately it had been a wet winter in the mountains of Arizona, and I never needed to fill the bottle more than half way to make it to the next water hole. Maybe I should have purchased a smaller bottle.
I continued to ponder that water from Fiji after we returned from dry Arizona to soggy Portland. Oregon is blessed with a lot more water than Arizona, but in both places we don’t really need bottled water, let alone water imported from a tropical island far away. In these states, as in most places in the United States, safe, potable drinking water is readily available. But this doesn’t keep us from consuming a lot of water in bottled form in our society.
At this point you are probably asking what this has to do with the world of produce.
Sometime between that trip last winter and now I remembered something I learned in grade school: fruits and vegetables are mostly water. And, after coming across a list of the water content of fruits and vegetables, I was surprised to see just how much water is in many of the items all of you CSA members receive in your shares each week.
We’ve all heard that watermelon is mostly water, and according to my list (from the University of Kentucky School of Agriculture), by weight, watermelon is 92% water. Maybe this is why a cold watermelon is so refreshing on a hot summer day. Melons are right up there too, coming in at around 90% water.
However, just about everything else we grow is actually quite high in water too. Cucumbers are 96% water, sweet peppers 92%, broccoli 91%, and carrots are 89% water. Of all the vegetables we grow, potatoes have by far the lowest percentage water weight, but they are still almost 80% water!
This realization made me see the transport of fruits and vegetables in a whole different light. Oranges, which are shipped in 90lb boxes are mostly water. That’s equivalent to over 9 gallons of water per box. From now on I’ll be looking at those big rigs that transport vegetables out on the freeway in a whole different light as they move mostly water back and forth across the country. Here’s just one more reason to eat fruits and veggies that are grown locally.
If your veggies are mostly water, does this mean that all farmers do is package water in a particularly tasty and nutritious way? I probably shouldn’t be telling everyone this, but this week’s small share, weighing in at 11 lbs, contains around 5 quarts of water and only a little over a pound of fiber, carbohydrates, protein, minerals and vitamins!
Have a great week, and enjoy your water, I mean vegetables!