First published December 2007, updated January 2011
I’m not a big fruit eater, mainly because fruit tends to taste pretty much like acidic water these days due to modern farming techniques (and my dulled taste buds), but I do occasionally enjoy an orange or mandarin (tangerine).
Everything that nature creates usually has multiple functions and in the case of oranges, the skin has far more uses than just being a protective coating.
Limonene, which comprises 95% of the oil in an orange’s peel, is being used in all sorts of applications, including the manufacture of plastics.
The Florida orange juice industry generates 5 million tons of citrus peel waste annually. The citrus waste is usually dried into citrus pulp pellets and fed to cattle, but may in future be used to make up to 60 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol.
While these are all large scale projects, here’s some ideas I found around the web for what you can do with orange peel instead of just throwing it in the bin:
- Due to the high content of flammable oil in orange peel, dried peel makes a great firestarter or kindling
- It seems that cats don’t like the smell of peel, so you can place them around plants where you don’t want cats digging
- Using a “zester”, the top layer of an orange peel can be scraped to produce zest. This can then be used to strong flavor to foods, such as sauces, soups and salads. The zest can be dried overnight and then stored in airtight bottles for future use.
- Dried orange peels can be placed in a cloth bag and placed in closets and cupboards to reduce musty odors
- A puree blend of orange peel and water can be applied to an area to discourage ants from crossing.
- Most insects hate limonene – the oil in the peel. Small piles of zest can be placed around an area to keep it free from flies and mosquitos. Some people claim rubbing orange peel on your skin will prevent mosquito bites.
- To deodorize a garbage disposal unit, throw down a few peels while it’s operating
- While on the topic of garbage, placing orange peel at the bottom of your trash can, before putting the bag or bags in is said to reduce odor and also help discourage insect infestation.
- Use the orange skin to scrub and deodorise your kitchen sink.
- Candied orange peels are a tasty treat that seem very simple to make. Plenty of recipes can be found on the Internet.
- Add them to your compost pile
Extracting orange oil
Orange oil is being used in many cleaning products these days for its pleasant aroma and powerful solvent properties. As an essential oil, it has many health-related benefits. If you’d like to have a go at making your own orange oil extract, try this:
Note: because this process uses solvents, wear gloves, keep out of reach of children and naked flame and the same applies for the finished product. Orange oil is flammable and very corrosive. For most cleaning purposes, a quarter of an ounce (7 mls) mixed in with a quart (1 liter) of water should be sufficient. Always spot test a brew before applying in quantity.
- dry the orange peels
- grind the peels
- place into a mason (glass) jar and cover with grain alcohol (even vodka)
- shake vigorously for a few minutes. If possible repeat this over a couple of days. Warmed alcohol will help yield more oil
- strain mixture through a coffee filter
- place mixture in a shallow dish, cover with a material that will breathe and allow alcohol to evaporate
- what’s left over will be orange oil
Most orange oil you buy is cold-pressed, which is a preferable method of extraction, but I couldn’t find any oil presses suitable for home use/small quantities available. If you know of such an item, please let me know!
By the way, if you’re using vodka, instead of using the method to extract the oil, after straining, rebottle the vodka and you’ll have a orange flavored liqueur.
Have some orange peel tips you’d like to share? – add them below!