Oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, limes, mandarins — they are all delicious, and more often than many other fruits, they are something we buy and eat fresh. For some of us, that leaves us with peels to put in the compost (a great green practice); for others, it’s the garbage. What’s for sure is that very few of us actually make use of the citrus peels, but we ought to start rethinking this.
Citrus peels are extraordinarily handy. They can be used for culinary adventures. They can be used to help us clean the house and for their refreshing aroma. They can be used in the shower, and they can even be used for medicine. The point here is that we can and should get into the habit of hanging onto those peels and putting them to good use.
Lemon pepper is the more common seasoning combination with citrus peels, but there are many options to play with. Grapefruit-sea salt or orange-cinnamon sugar are two other viable options, and of course, the imagination can run from there.
For a basic seasoning, start by zesting the citrus peel and add in some peppercorns. Grind these. After that, add in the salt. There are no exact measurements, and this is best done to suit the user’s taste. However, the zests of three lemons, a quarter cup of peppercorns, and two tablespoons of salt is a good taking off point.
Citrus cleaners are great natural alternatives to the harsh chemical stuff most of us are accustomed to using. Citrus oils help with scrubbing, and they add a pleasant scent to cleaners. They are also natural disinfectants.
A basic recipe for a very effective cleaner is to steep the citrus peels — any kind — in vinegar in a dark place, such as the cabinet beneath the sink, for a couple of weeks. To make it easy, just continue to add peels (and vinegar) as they are available.
Those rinds are edible as well. They can be used to make candy, to accent pastries or to spruce up cocktails or coffees. Rather than tossing them aside as we eat the fruit, the peels are worth keeping for the pleasing flavor they can provide.
A candied orange peel is an excellent treat. One Green Planet has a yummy vegan recipe for making candied orange peels. The only thing to add might be dipping the final product into some dark chocolate!
Citrus Oil Extract
The extracted oil from orange peels (and other citrus) is commonly used in baking, as well as a source of alternative medicine. Practitioners like it for mood-lifting and anti-inflammatory characteristics.
Extracting the oil is a bit of a process, but it’s also pretty cool. (Choosing organic produce is a good idea for this one.) Let the peels of about 20 pieces of fruit dry out in a bowl on the counter. Blend them in a food processor until they form a sort of paste. Add the paste to a Mason jar and pour in a cup of vodka. This will need to soak for around three days, with a good shake at least twice a day. Strain out the solids while pouring the liquid into a shallow dish. Give that about half a day so that the alcohol can evaporate. What’s left is citrus oil. Keep it in an amber-colored bottle.
Citrus Sugar Scrub
It’s fun to take things from the kitchen — avocados, cucumbers, etc. — and transform them into a beauty product. It’s natural and often quite effective. Sugar and citrus, as well as some cooking oil, combine to make a good scrub.
For an exfoliating scrub, start by zesting a citrus peel and adding it to about a ¾ cup of sugar. Muddle this together in a glass bowl. Slowly add about five tablespoons of oil (olive, almond, or macadamia would all be suitable.) The mixture should be stirred well between each spoon of oil. This should only be used once or twice a week because exfoliating requires recovery time.
Citrus Air Freshener
Lots of spaces could do with a bit of air freshening: gym bags, cabinets, closets, and so on. Citrus fruits provide a lovely aroma that just about everyone likes. Making a deodorizer with citrus peels is very easy.
To make a really simple deodorizer, dry about a ½ cup of citrus fruit. Combine that with a few cinnamon sticks and a couple of tablespoons of dried ginger root. Add a few drops of essential oil, like citrus and clove, and toss the dry ingredients in it. Put the combination in a muslin tea bag and keep that where desirable.
This is a great way to reduce waste, especially for those who eat a lot of fruit. It’s also an inexpensive method for getting choice products: all-natural cleaners, facial scrubs, and fancy sweets. The amazing thing is that those citrus peels almost got tossed!
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