Man, The Sh#* You Can Do With Orange Peels

I’m continuously amazed at some of the uses that I find for things. You see, I’m completely hell bent on having a homestead one day. Being a born and raised inner city girl who’s now in the suburbs, the idea never really sunk in that once we move there won’t be a grocery store within walking distance. Or I hope there won’t be.

I read and researched and flipping through homestead magazines and realized that these people all pretty much had the same thing in common: They used what they had. They didn’t make shopping trips every other day. Over the course of a few years, that’s what I’ve started to do as well. Call in in-house training. I’ve also come to realize that living on a homestead you have to second guess what you throw out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to save every scrap of paper, etc. The key to this is really to use less and hence waste less, not hoard garbage. But I’ve found some interesting uses for things.

First is my compost. Anything that can’t be turned into something else food wise gets composted. I have a massive twirly composter. It works great and I love it. So most kitchen scrap never really goes to waste. But tossing it in the compost isn’t the only way to go.

Mr. Super, my resident truck driver. used to work for a small trucking company that did odd loads from here to…anywhere really. One year right before Christmas he had a load in Florida delivering all kinds of citrus fruits. The owner of the company he was delivering to rejected a bunch of cases of fruit because they were blemished and the guy offered to let Mr. Super have it. I mean loads of it. Think about 100 pounds of fruit or better. Case after case. He ended up bringing it home with him. Being a country farm boy himself, he hated to see that stuff turned into the trash and he knew I could do something with it. Most of it was oranges, but in there were limes, lemons, grapefruits and tangerines.

So here I was, nearing Christmas, with a ton of citrus fruit scattered across my kitchen. Ok, first things first. Check to see if the insides were good and bingo, most of them were just fine. So I started canning them up. Orange slices and grapefruit slices, orange juice, lemon juice and on and on.

Course, then you are left with all the peels. Pounds upon pounds upon pounds of peels. Instead of crying my eyes out, I found some uses for them. I dried up most of them and used them like crazy.

To this day, I still dry the peel of an orange or citrus fruit when I use it because they are so versatile. They never go in the compost here. I highly doubt you’ll ever 50 pounds of oranges sitting on your counter, but it doesn’t mean you don’t eat an orange every once and again and drying the peels is really as easy as leaving them on the counter for a week or so. You don’t need a dehydrator, those that does make quick, even work of it.

You can slice the peel into thin strips or just leave it in chunks. It really doesn’t matter if you aren’t going to be eating them or using them decoatively, they’ll dry the same. If they aren’t for food use, you can leave the pith on too, makes no difference.

Here are some of the things I’ve done with DRIED citrus peels:

Put them on the stove in a pot of water in the winter time and simmer. Puts moisture back in the house and makes the house smell lovely. When they are spent, compost them or put them in the garbage disposal. They’ll freshen it up.

Make a potpourri with citrus peels, cinnamon sticks and a little cinnamon powder. Put it in a dish or a bag as a cute gift.

Grind them up with a coffee grinder. Grind it REALLY fine. You can then use it as a facial scrub once you add some jojoba, apricot kernel or very virgin olive oil to it. You can use the powder plain I suppose but it might be a little rough. You can also use the powder to scour counters, tubs or sinks. Ditto on making it super fine so it goes down the drain ok.

Put the peels in a jar next to your fire place, they make great kindling and smells wonderful!

Place a few in a bottle of vinegar and let it soak for a couple weeks. Replace it if needed. It’ll make a wonderful orange vinegar you can use for cleaning. Or add 3 tablespoons of the vinegar in a glass pint jar filled with water and use as a final hair rinse in the shower. No, you don’t have to rinse after using it. No, you won’t smell like vinegar once your hair dries. Works wonders for shine and removing build up.

Mix it in some baking soda as a carpet powder. Smells great when the vac hits it, again, make it super fine and soft though or it’ll clog.

Once powdered, you can also stick in a muslin bag with some cinnamon and nutmeg and make a spicy tea.

Zest the citrus fruit, removing all the pith, and dry them. You can store them in the cabinet in a jar this way.

You can make citrus sugar. Zest the fruit, like above, dry it and powder the ever living hell out of it, and mix some in a jar of sugar. It’ll flavor the sugar.

Some things you can do with FRESH peels:

I’ve only ever done this orange peels but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with most citrus peel: Cut fresh peels into thin strips. Blanch them (dip them in hot boiling water , then cold water again). Make a super thick syrup of sugar and water. Think 1 cup sugar to 1/2 cup of water. Stir this on the stove over low until totally dissolved. Add the peels and simmer 3-5 minutes. Pour the whole thing, warm syrup and peels, into a bowl with a lid. Place the lid on and stick them in the fridge overnight. The next day, drain the peels or use a slotted spoon, and roll the peels in more white sugar to coat. You can use them in recipes, but I’ve eaten them just like that and people love them. Mind you you can’t eat many straight like that but you can freeze them. Try dipping them in dark chocolate too after you’ve covered them in sugar. So Good! (Diabetic coma time!)

Zest the peels and freeze them for use in recipes. This skips the drying step and you can just wrap them in a bit of foil and store them in the freezer nearly indefinately.

You flavor sugar using fresh peels too. Just stick a fresh peel in a jar of sugar. The sugar should dry the peel out and leave you with flavored sugar.

Use the fresh peels to flavor teas! Lemon is great for this one.

Make vinegars, just like above.

Make a flavored liquor. Pour vodka over some fresh citrus peels to infuse it with flavor. It won’t be sweet, but it’ll be seriously citrus flavored.

Put them down your disposal, it’ll fresh it up!

Rub the peels on your counters, lemon works great for this, it’ll clean them and give them a beautiful scent.

You can put some zest in a food processor with some sugar and olive oil for an awesome body scrub.

Stick a piece of peel, lemon works best for this too, in some brown sugar to keep it soft!

Ok seriously, I could keep going. And going. And going. But by this point you are either snoozing OR itching to go run to the grocery store and buy a bag of oranges. (HEY! Now’s the time! They are on sale this time of year!) But these little buggers are really versatile. So consider me the devil on your shoulder and go do it!

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9 thoughts on “Man, The Sh#* You Can Do With Orange Peels

  1. Having had a lot of homesteading in my past – I have tried all of these techniques – except somehow I had never heard of the peels in brown sugar thing! Great idea! Have you read any of the marvelous stuff out there about urban homesteading?

    • I have read a bunch of urban homestead stuff. The only problem I’ve really got with most of the stuff written is that it’s not REALLY practical sometimes. They rely heavily on things like backyard poultry, which we can’t do here because of village ordinance, or the idea that you’ve got a set up where you can do a makeshift root cellar, or that you’ve got time/resources to do a front yard garden, or are very heavy on recipes (which I’ve got a million of!). Don’t get me wrong, it’s all VERY awesome ideas, just not mostly something I can apply here since I live in a suburban area where the village is all but fascists on what you can and can’t do. So I kind of wing it as I go, and I definitely enjoy the learning process!

      I read Countryside magazine and I’ve got a great book called the Encyclopedia of Country Living, which I’ve read cover to cover a million times. Obviously it’s for people in a more rural area, but I’ve adapted a lot of that stuff to my little suburban homestead here. And talking to people who are actually homesteaders is totally invaluable, that’s been by far my biggest source of inspiration.

      • Yeah, having local “regulation” sure puts a damper on things! And I sure agree about the plethora of recipes! Ye Gads. But as I have moved from city to country and back again (and now back again – living on 10 shared acres now!) I have found that even if the system can’t be bucked, it can be circumnavigated sometimes! Good luck!

  2. Holy cow! Do you have any idea how many oranges we go through in a week in my house? (No, of course you don’t 🙂 ) My children LOVE them. Now I will save and dry the peels! I use vinegar for most of my cleaning around the house, so adding the orange scent & cleaning power will be great. Same for the carpet cleaner trick. Nice. Thanks for all these suggestions!

    I need to get a composter. On the to-do list this year for sure.

  3. I know this is an older post, but it’s new to me, and I am amazed at what you’ve come up with for citrus peels. I live in a small apartment in a big building, mostly populated by people over 70. The heat and the winter dryness in here is ferocious, especially up here on the third floor, so the orange I eat at lunch today will become my humidifying pot of water in a couple of days. Thanks!

  4. Dude, these are such great ideas! My new years resolution was to be less wasteful. We’re going to have a compost at our new house, and be better at not throwing away food but actually eating it before it goes bad! Wish us luck….!

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