Didn’t we all have that quarter of a lemon sitting lonely and forgotten in the fruit drawer of our fridge at some point in time? Every so often a cocktail would call for a singular lime wedge, or a pasta dish needed a squeeze of citrus brightness but you didn’t bother with the zest. Citrus fruits are gifts that keep on giving, so we’d like to share these zero-waste ideas for maximizing their potential.

Whether you’ve got a free afternoon for some kitchen experimentation during quarantine or just a few minutes to spare in the midst of cooking a meal, we guarantee these tips will be tasty, useful, and oh, so nice-smelling!

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DEHYDRATE IN THE OVEN

Dried citrus need not only be found as fancy drink garnishes at your favourite bar (…ehem, 12/10.) They’re actually quite easy to do at home even if you didn’t have a food dehydrator. Simply take your leftover (or fresh) fruit and carefully slice them into thin wheels with a sharp or serrated knife. Spread them out in a single layer on a wire rack and pop it in the oven at 200°F. Check back in at least an hour to see if they’re done. This could take up to 2-3 hours depending on the thickness of the slices, or if you were dehydrating orange or grapefruit.

Store your dried citrus in an airtight container for the day you need a cocktail topper in a pinch. Or grind them into a powder to make citrus salt. You can also try a candied version by sprinkling demerara sugar on the citrus wheels before they go in the oven — these make great edible decorations for cakes and pies!

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PRESERVE AND INFUSE

Make the most out of your lemons, limes, or oranges and ensure that you have fresh citrus zest on-hand whenever you need it by simply keeping it in the freezer. Prior to cutting one open, wash, thoroughly dry, and zest your citrus with a fine grater or microplane. Try to avoid the bitter white pith underneath the colorful top layer of skin. Spread out the zest in a thin layer on wax or parchment paper and freeze for a half hour before transferring to a ziploc bag — skipping this step will freeze the zest in one clump. Then squeeze the air out, label accordingly, and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Another way to preserve your citrus would be to infuse it into your cooking fats. Mix fresh zest with softened butter and let it harden back up in the fridge, then you’ll have lemon butter at the ready for basting roast chicken or adding to steamed vegetables. Likewise, you can also peel your citrus before juicing them and pop the rinds (patted dry) in a jar of olive or grapeseed oil, letting it sit for two weeks, to make an easy yet versatile ingredient perfect for salad dressings or pantry pasta.

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SPRUCE UP YOUR KITCHEN

Lemons are known to be an important component of home-made kitchen cleaners along with vinegar and baking soda, but there are a multitude of other uses for them aside from microwave, oven, and surface cleaners.

Our favorite new discoveries include making used lemons into a fridge deodorizer by placing them in a bowl with charcoal to keep your fridge smelling fresh as well as putting together oven-dried citrus with cinnamon sticks or lavender to make fragrant potpourri drawer sachets. Additionally, squeezed lemons or leftover rinds with a bit of coarse salt make an effective scrub for ridding your knives or stainless steel pans of rust and making them shine like new.

We hope you get to try some of these ideas for when life gives you lemons!

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