When I was a kid, I learned the food pyramid, the base of which was the 6-11 recommended servings of bread and grains each day.  Since then, accepted dietary standards have changed, and people are eating fewer refined grains, less gluten, and in some cases, they’re cutting out carbs altogether.

However, I love bread.  And I know a lot of people do as well.  That’s why it’s unfortunate that most grains have such poor virtual water content.  A kilogram of wheat bread uses 1,300 liters of water.   A kilogram of rice needs 3,400 liters of water to grow.  On the upside, a kilogram of maize drops down into the triple-digits, needing only 900 liters of water. 

The downside of this, personally, is that after cutting out meat and trying to reduce other animal products, many of the vegetable-based dishes I enjoy come with a carb-o-licious side.  Curries and vegetable stir-fry?  Traditionally served over rice.  Hummus?  Spread over toast or dip in some pita bread.

If you want to save virtual water via your carb consumption, you can follow the same rules you do with all other food groups: grow some of your food in your own garden using grey water techniques, cook for yourself and avoid processed foods, and replace grain-y foods with fruits and vegetables when possible (for example, instead of eating hummus with crackers, eat hummus with carrot and celery sticks).

I’ve never grown grains in a garden before.  However, after a bit of research, I found that corn can do pretty well in a home garden.   Wheat is pretty work-intensive, but can be done as well.   This handy guide covers several common grains that can be cultivated in your back yard. 

After you’ve grown your grains, you have to convert them into meal or flour.  Sweet corn can be eaten straight off the cob, or can be ground into cornmeal for cornbread, corncakes, and breading for frying.   To mill wheat into flour, you can buy a special device or use a blender.   Either way, with a little thoughtful gardening and a bit of extra effort in the kitchen, you can enjoy all your starchy favorites (I’m fantasizing about pancakes right now) without virtual water guilt!