Learn 5 ways to preserve your citrus harvest so you can enjoy the fresh flavors of citrus once the fruit has disappeared from the tree. This winter, most of your garden may be sleeping but citrus trees are bursting with sweet, tart fruit. Let’s look at different ways that you can prolong the harvest and enjoy the delicious flavor of oranges and lemons.
1. Freeze the zest from lemons
Before juicing your lemons (or limes), remove the zest and store it in a plastic freezer bag. The zest will last for six months in the freezer. To use frozen zest, take a knife and slice off a section and allow into thaw to room temperature. Then, use as you would fresh lemon zest.
2. Freeze lemon or orange juice
Lemon is a favorite flavoring in salad dressings, and chicken and fish dishes. Often, you only need a little and buying an entire lemon can be expensive. After picking lemons off the tree, fill an ice cube tray with lemon juice and freeze. Once frozen, empty the lemon cubes into a plastic freezer bag and store for up to 4 months. Freezing also works well for lime juice.
You can also freeze larger amounts of lemon, lime or orange juice, in 1-cup increments, in plastic bottles, leaving a couple of inches of headspace for expansion.
3. Freeze whole lemons or slices
Place lemons and limes in a plastic freezer bag and freeze for up to four months. Another option is to cut slices, place them on a tray and freeze them for three hours. Then put them in plastic freezer bags to store. Once they are thawed out, their texture will be softer but they can be used like fresh citrus.
4. Make lemon salt
Lemon salt is a great way to preserve the fresh flavor of lemons. The ingredients for lemon salt are lemon zest and kosher salt. To make, combine the zest of three lemons, one cup kosher salt, and the juice of one lemon.
Spread in a thin layer on an oven-proof dish and bake at 200 degrees F for 25 minutes. Allow to cool and break up any clumps. Store in a sealed jar and use to flavor your favorite dishes.
5. Use the leaves of lemon for decorating and flavor
The uses of citrus go beyond their delicious fruit; their leaves also have a variety of uses. The lush, green leaves of lemons are a popular addition to bouquets, where they make a great filler between flowering stems and are an increasingly popular element of bridal bouquets. Their leaves are also used to create lush, green garlands and in wreaths for holiday decorating.
In addition to the decorative value of lemon leaves, the leaves are also great in ice tea, much as lemon slices are, which adds a mild lemon flavor. Lemon leaves are an ingredient in Indian and Thai dishes, as well as some Greek and Italian cuisine.
Enjoy your citrus trees to their fullest this season by using one or more of these five ways to preserve your citrus harvest.