Using Citrus Peel

Dear Margaret,
Is there anything I can do with orange peels? Every season I have the same problem. I know they can't be composted, because they are too acid, but each week I have a huge bag full, & they smell awful by rubbish day. It seems such a waste.

Have you, or any of your friends a wood fire? One use for citrus peel is to dry it .( Use a sunny windowsill, or a wire basket over the stove) A handful will light the fire as well as commercial firelighters or pine cones. It smells good while they are drying, too.
The reason it's not a good idea to put large quantities of citrus peel in the compost heap is not the acidity, which is mainly in the juice, but the antiseptic properties of citrus oils, particularly orange oil. You can put in small quantities,chopped up, & well mixed with other organic matter, but large amounts of orange oil will slow down the bacterial action in the compost quite dramatically.
Why not invest in an inexpensive gadget called a zester? This quickly strips the outer peel, containing the flavourful oil, into fine shreds. It's easiest to do this before you juice or cut the fruit. With your breakfast grapefruit, putting a clean rubber ball inside the empty grapefruit half can be helpful. This zest can be dried & stored to use as a flavouring, or mixed with an equal quantity of sugar or honey, & kept refrigerated in a sealed jar until required for making cakes, puddings, or biscuits. Fresh zest makes an original addition to custards, whipped cream, or salad dressings. It can also be used as a garnish,or to flavour tea.
Look in the library for cookery-books specialising in preserves, & try some of the various recipes for making candied peel. It's not exactly a health food, but does give that special something to fruit cakes & fruit mince. When I make old-fashioned bread pudding, which is a spicy cake-like family treat, I often mince the fresh peel of an orange finely, & put it into the mixture instead of candied peel.
I have also made a syrup from lemon peels, including the white pith, & sugar, which gives a tangy bitter lemon flavour to summer drinks. I use roughly twice as much sugar as lemon peel & simmer in water to cover until it tastes good & strong. If it boils hard the sugar will candy. Add more hot water from time to time so it doesn't get too thick. Pour into hot sterilised bottles & seal immediately.
Citrus oil, & the bioflavinoids in the pith, are good for the skin & hair. Fill a large saucepan with peel, cover with water & simmer for a while with the lid on. Strain, & add the liquid to your bath, or dilute & use as a final rinse for your hair.
Dried citrus peel is an excellent fixative for pot pourri. Dry until crisp, & grind coarsely. Store in an screwtop jar in a dark place until needed.(Don't use a plastic container unless you are prepared to have it permanently citrus scented.) Or use it as it is to make sachets which keep away moths, & make your clothes smell sweet.
I have often read that halves of orange or grapefruit peel will trap slugs if placed cut side down in the garden, & inspected early in the morning. Maybe I don't get up early enough, but it has never worked for me. My slugs prefer fresh bread soaked in beer!


Note:In researching & answering questions about earthwise living, Margaret offers information, opinion, & personal experience, but no quick fixes! Readers should evaluate these offerings in the context of their own situations; they are suggestions, *not* recommendations. Any responsibility for their implementation rests *solely* with the reader.


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