If the number of crates in our preservery currently overflowing with citrus fruits is anything to go by, citrus season has well and truly begun in Melbourne! A flourishing fruit tree is an amazing thing for any home grower; however, there often becomes a point where you physically can’t consume the lemons in your fruit bowl faster than they are piling up. So when you reach the point of citrus capacity, here are some nifty applications for your glut of lemons, limes, oranges, mandarins, grapefruits and kumquats all around the home.
1. Freeze them!
Did you know most citrus freezes really well, lasts months and can be frozen in various ways? The most obvious is to squeeze the juice into ice cube trays to be used later to add a burst of flavour to sparkling water, tea or cocktails. If you want an extra punch of flavour, you can freeze fresh wedges and herbs in water to make delicious and refreshing fusions - we particularly love combining orange and thyme or lemon and mint. And, if you simply can’t be bothered with the preparation, you can stick the fruit straight in the freezer whole and defrost at a later date. The peel won’t be usable, but the juice will be just fine - how great is that!
2. Turn into an air freshener
There’s a reason many air fresheners have citrus notes; the aromas are a welcome addition to any space! Instead of buying plastic air freshener bottles or spending a fortune on fancy glass diffusers, you can create your own air freshener in a few simple steps. The fastest method involves filling a small bowl with water before adding slices of lime, grapefruit or any other citrus to freshen the air naturally. If you want to get a bit fancier, you can simmer ingredients like orange peel, star anise and cinnamon in a pot of water before pouring the steeped liquid into a spray bottle to use whenever an area needs a burst of freshness.
3. Use as fire starter
This one is a little left of field, but stick with us! It may come as a surprise, but the oils inside citrus skins are highly combustible, making the peel an excellent fire starter. If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace or backyard fire at home and want to test this natural method for yourself, read on! Before attempting, you’ll need to dry out the peels on top of your fireplace or in a low oven until they are hard and crispy. From here, you can stack your fire with kindling and spread the peels throughout. All that remains is to set the peels on fire and then enjoy the lovely fragrance as the fire starts to catch.
4. Make a body scrub
Citrus scrubs are a handy and nourishing beauty product to have in your bathroom. With the addition of a ribbon or cute label, they also make great gifts! Best of all, scrubs are super simple to make and are an excellent way to use up the full spectrum of citrus fruits. The rule of thumb is to combine the juice of one large fruit or two small, ½ a cup of sugar and ¼ cup of coconut oil. Add the juice to a bowl containing the sugar before mixing in coconut oil. You can even add some zest throughout the mixture or as a garnish on top. Decant into a little jar, and voila - a homemade scrub ready for your hands and body.
5. Make candied peel
Scrap the packet lollies and turn bitter skins into delicious sweets! This hack works for oranges, lemons, limes and even grapefruit. The process varies from recipe to recipe but generally involves the following four steps:
- Separating the peel from the fruit
- Slicing thinly
- Simmering in a simple syrup
- Tossing in sugar and drying
There are various methods for different fruits (e.g. thick grapefruit skins require a few additional steps), so have a quick Google and see which is best for you and your harvest. We also highly recommend dipping the candied peel into chocolate - thank us later!
6. Donate excess citrus
There is no shortage of households in need of fresh produce, so consider donating part of your harvest to a worthy cause. Look for local community organisations or food banks that work directly with people experiencing food insecurity. For those in Melbourne, there’s our community preserving program where we take donated produce and turn it into yummy preserves - a portion of which returns to the grower, another which is donated to food banks, and the remainder is sold in our shop to keep the program financially viable. Donating produce is a great, simple way to reduce your food waste while helping a good cause.
7. Make tasty creations with a high citrus content
Rather than a dash of lime here and an orange segment there, focus your cooking efforts on foods that are full to the brim with citrus! Here are some of our fave ideas;
- Cordial: Use up tonnes of your citrus by combining the juice with sugar, citric acid and water. You can use lemons, lime, grapefruit, orange and even mandarins as a base!
- Margaritas: If you have bulk limes, lucky you! They’re a key ingredient in classic margaritas, so squeeze all fruit into a bottle and keep the drinks flowing all night.
- Roasted kumquats: Aside from making a delicious marmalade, these mini fruits can be sliced up thin, roasted and then added to a multitude of dishes, skin and all! We like them in cakes, on salads and with chicken.
- Preserved lemons: Preserve up to 10 lemons (or limes, for that matter) at a time and three weeks later, they’ll be ready for use in salad dressing, couscous, on seafood and much more!
- Citrus curd: You can make an amazing zesty condiment with lemons, limes, grapefruit, mandarins, oranges and even kumquats! Once preserved, the possibilities are endless - enjoy on scones, waffles, crepes and yoghurt, or add the curd to your cakes, tarts and icing. You could also eat it straight from the jar, no judgement here!
- Tarts and cakes: Queen of baking, Nigella Lawson, has some excellent sweet recipes that use four fruits at a time. Our Preserving Coordinator and qualified pastry chef, Felicity, can’t go past her clementine cake or bitter citrus tart.