White pith of lemon

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Lemon zest adds sunshine to all your favorite spring and summer soups, salads, and lemon desserts! You don’t need a fancy gadget, either; here’s how to zest a lemon with (almost) anything you have in the kitchen, as well as make a picture perfect twist for any cocktail.

A little lemon zest, or any citrus zest, really, can do amazing things to food. If you’re making something that needs a little oomph, but you don’t quite know what—chances are a little fragrant lemon zest can rescue it from being stashed away in the fridge, never to be eaten again.

And good news! You don’t have to have the most well-stocked kitchen in the world to make lemon zest, either. There’s lots of ways to zest a lemon without a zester. Here’s how to do it, so there’s simply no excuse…unless, that is, you’re out of lemons.

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What is the meaning of lemon zest?

And, while we’re at it, what’s the difference between lemon zest and lemon peel?

Well, citrus fruit is covered with a peel. That peel includes the inner skin layer, called an albedo, what many refer to as “pith.” The white, fleshy pith is what people usually avoid because it tastes bitter.

The outer skin layer is called a flavedo. It has all the flavor, thanks to the natural citrus oils that are located just under the surface.

The difference between lemon zest and lemon peel is that zest is purely made of the very outermost layer of the citrus fruit: all flavedo (flavor) and no bitterness.

Not all citrus fruits have the same ratio of pith to skin, however. For example, grapefruit tends to have thick skin with a lot of protective pith, while limes have almost no pith at all. This is an important distinction when you start zesting different fruits.

Things you can use to zest a lemon:

(BTW, if you feel like you can’t live without any of this, buying through these links helps with running this site, so thank you very much!)

A box grater. An old fashioned box grater will do the trick.

A paring knife. A super sharp paring knife is a cook’s bff, and just perfect for zesting citrus.

A vegetable peeler. No matter which one you have, old fashioned or new-fangled, a peeler works great for zesting lemons.

A zester. Maybe you have one of these in a drawer somewhere. This type has a channel cutter built in for quick and easy cocktail twists.

A surform tool. A fancy name for a stick-type grater, also known as a microplane, that works double duty for grating cheese, nutmeg, ginger, or chocolate. If you plan on doing a lot of zesting, this is one tool to invest in.

How to zest a lemon, all the ways:

A few tips before you begin:

Wash your fruit. First things first, before you begin to zest any citrus fruit, make sure that any protective wax is scrubbed off the fruit so all you add to your food is bright, zesty flavor! This extra little step makes a big difference!

Don’t go too far. No matter what technique you use, don’t dig in too deep to the bitter pith or the juicy fruit. Use a light touch, and make sure you rotate the fruit so you don’t over grate. Remember, different fruit=different thickness of skin.

Make extra. Extra citrus zest can be mixed into salt to make Margarita Salt, or into sugar for adding to tea or frosting. You can also mix extra citrus zest into soft butter to make a compound butter that can be served onto fresh asparagus, or baked salmon.

When life hands you lemons, make lemon juice. Don’t throw away your zested lemons! They won’t last as long without their protective skin, so juice ‘em up and put them to use in a fabulous salad dressing, an amazing rice pilaf or a Whiskey Sour Cocktail.

If you can’t think of anything to use with the juice right away, freeze the fresh juice in an ice cube tray and save it for Lemon Bars or adding to a homemade soup to brighten it up.

How to zest a lemon with a knife:

A sharp paring knife is a simple way to get larger pieces of peel for pies, cocktails, and recipes where you might need to remove the peel after it has infused what you’re cooking with flavor.

Hold the lemon in one hand and the knife in the other. Beginning at the top of the fruit, cut into the skin and carefully remove the peel in strips, working your way around the lemon. Be careful that you don’t cut in too deeply; your goal is to get the shallowest slice possible.

Once you have fully peeled the lemon, you can chop or mince the large pieces into a smaller, thinner size.

How to zest a lemon with a box grater:

A box grater is effective for making lemon zest. Use the smallest openings on the box grater, the one that looks like little rough holes.

Place the grater over a cutting board or clean work surface. Holding the box grater by the handle firmly with one hand, and the lemon in the other, push the lemon away from you across the rough side of the grater, removing the colorful part of the fruit, exposing the pith. Gently rotate the lemon as you go, to get all of the zest you can from each fruit.

Much of the zest might get stuck into the little holes of the box grater; just rap the grater solidly against the work surface, and most of the zest should come loose.

How to zest a lemon with a peeler:

Many cooks find that using a standard or y-style vegetable peeler works splendidly for removing the outer peel of the lemon.

Hold the lemon in one hand and the peeler in the other. Beginning at the top of the fruit, use the peeler to cut into the skin and carefully remove the peel in strips, or a spiral if you’re feeling fancy, working your way around the lemon.

Be careful that you don’t cut in too deeply; your goal is to get the shallowest slice possible.

Once you have fully peeled the lemon, you can chop or mince the long pieces into a smaller, thinner size.

How to zest a lemon with a microplane:

This is one of the easiest ways to zest a lemon, but a grater like the Deiss or Microplane is a very sharp tool and should be treated with caution.

Hold the grater in one hand and the lemon in the other over a cutting board or clean work surface. Going in one direction, push the lemon away from you across the rough side of the grater, removing the colorful part of the fruit, exposing the pith. Gently rotate the lemon as you go, to get all of the zest you can from each fruit.

The zest might stick to the underside of the grater; just give it a tap and it will fall off.

How to use a lemon zester or a channel knife:

A lemon zester is a one-duty gadget that may or may not include a channel knife on one side.

Depending on whether you need a garnish or zest, you can use one part or the other. To use the zester, hold the lemon in one hand and the zester in the other. Starting at the top of the lemon, press the round blades into the skin and move them across the fruit, rotating so that you get all of the zest you can.

To use a channel knife, hold the lemon in one hand and the channel knife in the other. Dig the tip of the channel-shaped blade into the lemon at the middle, and rotate the lemon so that you make one long, narrow peel.

How to make a lemon twist:

To make a lemon twist, gently rotate a long strip of lemon peel around a drinking straw, securing each end with pins to hold it in place. This can be done in advance; by the time your cocktail is ready, your twist will be beautiful and perfectly curled. Just remember to give it an extra twist over the drink, to release the natural oils over the surface of the cocktail.

Lemon Zest Substitute:

If you just don’t have lemons, but the recipe calls for zest, here’s some tricks to get that fragrant lemon essence anyway:

For 1 teaspoon lemon zest, substitute:

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest

How to Zest a Lemon

Lemon zest adds sunshine to all your favorite spring and summer soups, salads, and lemon desserts! You don’t need a fancy gadget, either; here’s how to zest a lemon with (almost) anything you have in the kitchen, as well as make a picture perfect twist for any cocktail. Course Drinks, Pantry Cuisine American Keyword lemon Prep Time 5 minutes Total Time 5 minutes Calories 1kcal

  • 1 lemon

To zest lemon with a peeler:

  • Hold the lemon in one hand and the peeler in the other. Beginning at the top of the fruit, use the peeler to cut into the skin and carefully remove the peel in strips, or a spiral if you’re feeling fancy, working your way around the lemon.

To zest a lemon with a knife:

  • Hold the lemon in one hand and the knife in the other. Beginning at the top of the fruit, cut into the skin and carefully remove the peel in strips, working your way around the lemon. Be careful that you don’t cut in too deeply; your goal is to get the shallowest slice possible.

To zest a lemon with a box grater:

  • Place the grater over a cutting board or clean work surface. Holding the box grater by the handle firmly with one hand, and the lemon in the other, push the lemon away from you across the rough side of the grater, removing the colorful part of the fruit, exposing the pith. Gently rotate the lemon as you go, to get all of the zest you can from each fruit.

To zest a lemon with a microplane:

  • Hold the grater in one hand and the lemon in the other over a cutting board or clean work surface. Going in one direction, push the lemon away from you across the rough side of the grater, removing the colorful part of the fruit, exposing the pith. Gently rotate the lemon as you go, to get all of the zest you can from each fruit.

To zest a lemon with a lemon zester or channel knife:

  • Depending on whether you need a garnish or zest, you can use one part or the other. To use the zester, hold the lemon in one hand and the zester in the other. Starting at the top of the lemon, press the round blades into the skin and move them across the fruit, rotating so that you get all of the zest you can.
  • To use a channel knife, hold the lemon in one hand and the channel knife in the other. Dig the tip of the channel-shaped blade into the lemon at the middle, and rotate the lemon so that you make one long, narrow peel.

To make a lemon twist:

  • Gently rotate a long strip of lemon peel around a drinking straw, securing each end with pins to hold it in place. This can be done in advance; by the time your cocktail is ready, your twist will be beautiful and perfectly curled. Just remember to give it an extra twist over the drink, to release the natural oils over the surface of the cocktail.

Nutrition

Calories: 1kcal

How to zest a lemon three different ways — and the tools you need to do it

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  • Lemon zest adds zing to many different dishes, including desserts, salads, seafood, poultry, pasta, and even cocktails.
  • Its flavor is stronger than lemon juice, and along with the citrusy sweet and tart taste, zest adds a little bit of color to your recipe.
  • With the right tool, it’s very easy to zest a lemon — or any other citrus fruit — so if you’ve been skipping this kitchen technique thinking it was only for the pros, it’s time to add some zest to your cooking.
  • Here’s how to zest a lemon and the tools you need to do it, including a zester, a grater, and a vegetable peeler.

Sprinkles of lemon zest are a must on top of any lemony dessert, including lemon bars, lemon pie, or a lemon-glazed pastry. Zest also adds punch to soups, salads, meat dishes, and even pasta. You don’t need a lot — just a little bit of zest goes a long way. As a general rule, you’ll get one tablespoon of zest from a medium-sized lemon.

While you can purchase dried, bottled zest, it doesn’t have quite the same fragrance and flavor as freshly grated fruit rind. And that’s okay, because it’s so easy to zest a fresh lemon, you really don’t need to bother with a bottle. All you need is a basic kitchen tool — a zester, a grater, or a vegetable peeler.

Regardless of which tool you use, the most important rule in zesting citrus is to only grate the outer, colored rind. Never zest down into the white, spongy pith that lies right below the rind. The pith is bitter and will spoil the flavor of your recipe.

Once you have your lemon zest, you can use it right away, or store it in the freezer for up to six months. To prevent the zest freezing into a hard clump, first lay it out on a dish or tray in a single layer, and then pop it into the freezer for several hours or overnight. Then, transfer it into a plastic freezer bag and keep it frozen until you need it. There’s generally no need to thaw the zest before you use it. It will thaw out very quickly once added to your cooking.

Here are the three basic ways to zest a lemon, along with the tools you need to do so. Whichever tool you choose, remember to first wash the citrus thoroughly under warm, running water, and then wipe it dry with a clean dish towel to remove any dirt, wax, or potentially harmful bacteria. Also, if you plan on juicing the lemon as well as zesting it, zesting comes first.

Here are the tools you can use to zest a lemon:

  • Best zester: OXO Good Grips Lemon Zester
  • Best vegetable peeler: OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler
  • Best zester grater: Microplane Premium Zester Grater

What is Lemon Zest:

The rich outermost part of the rind of an orange, lemon, or other citrus fruit, which can be used as flavoring. Freshly-grated orange, lime or lemon zest packs a flavor wallop no bottles dried zest can match. One of the easiest ways to infuse a citrus flavor into your baked goods is to add lemon, lime, or orange zest to the dish. Lemon zest has an intense lemon/citrus flavor with very little bitterness. The bitterness is primarily found in the white part of the lemon (the white pith).

1 medium-size lemon = approximately 1 tablespoon of lemon zest = 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

The peel of a citrus fruit contains two (2) top layers:

The zest (the outermost part of the rind). On a lemon, zest is the yellow part of the peel (skin) on the outside of a lemon. The zest is shiny, brightly colored, and textured; it is the outer surface of the fruit which consumers can directly see.

The pith (the inner white, fibrous membrane directly below the zest which helps to protect the fruit inside).

Tip: If you are not going to juice a lemon that you have just zested, wrap the zested lemon in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until ready to use.

Before Squeezing the juice out of fresh lemons, how about zesting them first?

How To Zest Lemons: If you are using a lemon for both zest and juice, grate the zest first and then squeeze the juice.

Wash the lemon first: Before zesting the lemon, scrub the fruit with a sponge and warm, soapy water. Rinse it well and dry it with a paper towel.

Zesting and Grating Tips: When removing the skin from lemons or other citrus fruits, be sure to take off only the thin outer zest or colored portion (leaving the pith on the fruit). The white pith will give your dish a bitter under taste.

When grating lemon peel, use this fast and easy trick. Cover the zest side of your grater with plastic wrap and grate the lemon over the plastic wrap (remember don’t grate the bitter white pith that’s under the peel). Most of the zest will remain on the plastic wrap and thus can not stick in the holes of the grater. Just pull the plastic wrap off and shake the zest onto a plate.

Storing Lemon Zest: Just place the lemon zest in a freezer bag and freeze until ready to use. This is so simple to do and so fantastic! You can also do this with Meyer lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruit zest. To use, let the zest defrost for a moment or two on the counter before adding it to your dish. This is so it will not be a frozen clump.

Tightly Wrap Zested Lemons: Because the oil in the skin of the lemon keep the fruit from drying out, a lemon without the skin needs protection. Because of this, tightly wrap the zested lemon in plastic wrap before refrigerating or freezing.

Lemon Zester (top of photo) – Traditional zester, which makes long, thin strands of zest, or a knife. Be sure to finely chop the strands with a knife. A tool for removing the zest of a lemon. A lemon zester allows one to remove the zest (and only the zest) in long strips. A zester has tiny cutting holes that create threadlike strips of peel.

Lemon Grater (such as the Microplane version – bottom of photo) – You will also note that many recipes call for grated zest or peel. In this case, use a fine grater to remove the peel. To zest with the Microplane, just rub the lemon in one direction against the little blades. Turn the lemon as you go so you remove only the yellow part.

Vegetable Peeler or Knife – If you do not have a zester or grater, use a vegetable peeler or a small, sharp knife. Carefully peel off a strip of the lemon skin, working top to bottom. Peel only the topmost layers of the skin. If there is any white showing on the underside (the pith), you have peeled too deep.

Learn how to purchase, freeze, and store Lemons.

Learn How to Juice Citrus Fruits
Bottled lemon juice should be substituted only if fresh lemons are not available as there is no comparison in taste!

Lots of delicious Lemon Recipes.

How to Zest a Lemon Two Ways–With a Grater or a Knife

Whether you’re baking a cake or cooking dinner, knowing how to zest a lemon is important. See, adding a little lemon zest is one of the best ways to wake up a dish that still needs a little extra something. But what exactly is lemon zest and how do you make it? Lemon zest is the flavorful, colorful portion of the rind of any citrus fruit. Scratch a lemon with your fingernail and you’ll smell an intensely citrusy aroma. That’s because the fruit’s essential oils reside in its rind. Zesting is one of the best ways to harness all of that flavor.

To zest a lemon, always start by washing the fruit under running water and patting it dry before using it. Even if you’re just using the zest, it’s important to remove all the wax coating or anything else that might be on the outside before zesting. If you are planning to juice the lemon too, zesting should always come first. Trust us, trying to grate tiny quarters of a lemon is a real challenge.

The easiest way to make ultra-fine, delicate lemon zest is with a grater or zester. We like a Microplane ($15; williams-sonoma.com) best but if you don’t have one, a sharp knife will do the trick. A Y-peeler or box grater are also great alternatives.

If you don’t have lemons, some common lemon zest substitutes include the zest of another citrus (use the same amount the recipe called for), dried lemon peel (use the equal amount) or lemon extract (use half the amount of lemon zest the original recipe calls for).

Follow these easy steps to learn how to zest a lemon with a grater or a knife efficiently and properly.

What You Need

  • Lemons
  • Cutting board
  • Grater
  • Chef’s knife

How to Zest a Lemon With a Grater

Hold your Microplane in your dominant hand away from you and use your other hand to hold a lemon over a cutting board or plate. (Note: Graters, especially Microplanes, are extremely sharp and should be used with caution.)

Using moderate pressure, drag the lemon in a downward motion against the blades of the grater to remove the colorful portion of the skin. Continue this step until the pith (the white part) is fully exposed and you have removed all or most of the peel. (You will know when you have reached the pith when the lemon becomes harder to grate and the resulting zest is a lighter color yellow.) If the zest is stuck under the Microplane, tap it against the plate or cutting board to release the finely grated zest.

How to Zest a Lemon With a Knife

Making a pie filling or a cocktail? A sharp chef’s knife is the easiest alternative to zesting a lemon without resorting to fancy gadgets. Hold the lemon firmly in one hand on a cutting board and a knife in your dominant hand. Starting from the top of the fruit, cut into the skin and slowly remove the peel in strips working your way around the lemon with the knife. Watch out for the pith here; it can be easy to break into the lemon itself. After the lemon is fully peeled, slice or mince the lemon peel pieces into the desired size.

Practice your new skills by making one of our favorite lemon bars recipes, and for more cooking ideas, these are our favorite recipes right now.

What is the difference between lemon peel, zest and rind? 

Technically speaking, the zest is the colorful portion of the peel or rind. The peel or rind refers to the entire skin—both the colorful outer portion and the bitter white pith that lies right beneath it. The white pith is bitter and unpleasant, while the zest has the bright flavor of the fruit.

But whether a recipe calls for grated lemon (or orange or lime) zest, peel or rind, you won’t want to use that unpleasant white pith. It’s the colorful zest that adds the bright acidic flavor of the fruit.

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And speaking of zest, here’s a neat tip. When grating the zest of a citrus fruit, grate the whole thing, even if you only need a small amount. Place the extra grated zest in small airtight pouches made of plastic wrap, and keep them in the freezer. They’re terrific to have on hand when you need to brighten a soup, sauce or dressing. See 7 Ways with Lemons for some fresh ways to use lemons in recipes.

How can a single fruit provide three contrasting flavors, extractable separately or in combination? Easily enough when it is a citrus fruit, and those flavors are held in discrete, divisible layers.

Lemons descend from a noble, versatile family of fruits. Its peel characterizes limoncello, its pith adds to the bitterness of a bitter lemon cocktail, and its juice endows a whiskey sour with acidity.

And yet generally speaking these fruits are constructed rather simply. With a couple of exceptions — notably finger limes and Buddha’s hand — citrus fruits have a juice-filled core surrounded by a cushioning layer of white pith and an exterior layer of aromatic peel. As well as working as solo notes, citrus fruits are nearly indispensible for making gin and vermouth in combination with a variety of other herbs, spices and fruits. Many gins incorporate grapefruit peel, and vermouths utilize the richness of dried orange peel. Citrus also combine well, notably in Seedlip Grove 42 that layers bitter orange, blood orange, mandarin and lemon.

Citrus fruit crops are some of the most widely cultivated in the world. Humans have been enjoying their taste and selectively breeding them for thousands of years. Combined with a propensity for hybridizing, a vast diversity of cultivated citrus has expanded the forms, colors and flavors of citrus far beyond the 10 wild species they are all descended from. Wild citrus originated in the southeast foothills of the Himalayas, diversified and moved into Australia. Commercial crops of citrus are grown outdoors in southern states: California, Florida, Arizona, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana because most citrus trees have low tolerance for the cold temperatures they would be exposed to further north. However, citrus are amenable to being grown in pots and kept indoors over winter, and because their peel in particular offers a concentration of aroma, one or two trees can furnish a distiller with enough raw material for regular batches of citrus-infused spirit. In the cold winters of Massachusetts, Berkshire Mountain Distillers have a couple of potted citrus trees that are brought into the distillery to protect them from frost.

Mandarins (Citrus reticulata) are familiar on supermarket shelves. However, there is a use of mandarin that is novel to the US spirits market but well embedded in aromatic products like shampoos and essential oils. Unripe mandarins that are still green and not orange have superlative aroma, and this is made use of in beverages in the Mediterranean. In southwest Turkey, people take an early crop of green mandarins and store them in their freezers to put in drinks throughout the year. In Sicily, the green peel is macerated in spirit for three weeks and then combined with sugar syrup to make a liqueur. In its unripe green state, mandarin peel has a freshness that balances the more familiar aroma of ripe mandarins, making it less saccharine.

Key limes (Citrus x aurantifolia) are the eponymous fruit of the Florida Keys, although most key limes on the market are supplied by Mexico. After a hurricane in 1935 destroyed the last commercial crop trees and the increase in accessibility and land value following the completion of the overseas highway linking the Florida Keys to the mainland, the only key limes left in the Florida Keys are in gardens. In contrast to Persian limes (Citrus latifolia), they are ripe when yellow, yield more acidic juice, contain less pith and have more aromatic peel. Falernum is the perfect product to showcase key limes, as it uses both peel and juice; 24–48 hours is long enough to macerate the lime peel and spices, and a short enough time to leave the juice inside the peeled limes until the infused rum, sugar and juice are combined to make the finished falernum.

Citrus have flavored distilled products for hundreds of years, but recent developments in cultivars, crops grown and distribution in the US have increased the distilling repertoire. Meyer lemons (Citrus x meyeri) blend characteristics from their parentage of lemon and orange. Their peel is a particularly desirable combination of lemon with warmer notes of orange. They aren’t widely available as a commercial crop because their soft skin is easily damaged, which makes them more difficult to transport. But they are popular on a local scale. Initially introduced from China in 1908 as a cold-tolerant lemon, they were symptomless carriers of the tristeza virus that caused great damage to citrus crops. However, since virus-free clones were released in 1975, they have been regaining commercial use. Juicing Meyer lemons can be a quicker way of separating aromatic peel from juice than peeling them. Vapor infusion of the fresh peel is the ideal way to capture its taste in spirit.

Marketing and distribution networks are also more able to connect seasonal citrus with buyers. Buddha’s hand (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) has had some Halloween rebranding with the name goblin’s fingers. It is a cultivar of etrog or cedro (Citrus medica), which are characterized by particularly thick pith. Buddha’s are divided into segments that resemble a hand. For distillers, Buddha’s hand presents two appealing characteristics. While the peel is citrus-scented, it also has a lavender-floral note, to the extent that one left out in a room perfumes the air enough for people to ask what it is. They contain no flesh or seeds: Inside the skin, the fruit is entirely pith. With the absence of seeds, they are replicated as cuttings. Their pith does not carry as much bitterness as the pith of many other citrus. Consequently the fruits are easily prepared for making use of the aroma of their peel because there is are no need to separate peel from pith, and no juice to contend with. The entire fruit can be cut and left to macerate in spirit prior to distillation. If macerated after distillation, the spirit will retain a light yellow tint. An important handling note is that citrus pith is rich in pectin. This is removed by distillation but if citrus peel is added after distillation, pectin present in the final product can cause a pectin haze, particularly when the spirit or liqueur is chilled. Another method of reducing pectin content is freezing. Citrus retain flavor well when frozen, but pectin is degraded by freezing.

Finger limes (Citrus australasica) are a new crop for the US that entered the market as specialty produce sold to chefs and restaurants. As production increases, they are more readily available. Still found as a wild plant in Australia as well as being cultivated, they are used in several Australian gins. These are citrus without pith. Their incredibly fragrant peels encase a cluster of round juice-filled vesicles, which look like pink, clear or green caviar. Shanley Farms, in California, is one of the main growers of finger limes for the US market. They sell them whole and also sell the juice-filled vesicles as citrus pearls. Lauren Taylor of Shanley Farms said, “At this time, the peel of the finger lime is not part of the show. Although a by-product of the main event — the citrus pearls — the peel will eventually be sold to press and extract the oil.” Potentially an opportunity for a distiller to access a supply of this peel that in addition to being aromatic is a by-product. This is congruent with increasing awareness in the drinks industry of reducing waste. While the finger-lime season runs from January to June, like all citrus, the peel retains flavor and aroma when dried.

Yuzu (Citrus x junos) is another citrus that was not a common find in the US because it doesn’t have the sweet juice that fits well in a fruit section, although yuzu juice is indispensible in Japanese cuisine. Combining intense sourness with a blossomy note, the juice is suited to addition post-distillation to retain its acidity. Additionally, yuzu peel is widely used as a condiment in Japanese cuisine in its own right and as a component of shichimi and yuzu kosho. In both of these spice blends, yuzu peel lightens the fierceness of chili and pepper. Gins made in Japan and Japanese-inspired gins are making use of yuzu peel. It is convenient as a dried ingredient that is easily stored. Furthermore, yuzu trees are considered cold-hardy down to 10°F, so they can be grown outdoors further north than most citrus. Yuzu peel is best used in short maceration or vapor distillation.

When looking to use citrus, it’s worth considering varieties beyond grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime. Some citrus fruits, such as finger limes and Buddha’s hand, are seasonal; while others, for example key limes, are connected to place. In all cases, it is worth remembering that these are fruits that can offer three layers of organoleptic experience when their peel, pith and juice are considered independently.

19S_citrus 1 of 5 Lemon pith, peel and fruit Green mandarins Frozen blood orange Dried orange peel Buddha’s hand
DENIO RIGACCI/iStock/GettyImages

The entire outer layer of a citrus fruit, such as a lemon, orange or grapefruit, is often called the peel or rind. These terms, however, do not tell the whole story. The very outer colored layer of the fruit is the skin. This is the part that is used for zest or in candied peels. The inner part of the peel or rind is called the pith. This part is bitter and can add an unpleasant taste if you include it in a dish by mistake. Removing the majority of a citrus fruit’s peel is fairly easy, but it can be tricky not to leave some of the bitter pith behind.

Put your citrus fruit on the cutting board and cut off both ends. This will give you a flat end on which to stand the fruit and a place to start cutting off the rind.

Stand your citrus fruit upright on the cutting board.

Start cutting the peel and pith away from the fruit. Begin at the flat top of the citrus fruit. As you cut, follow the fruit’s curve as closely as possible; this will allow you to preserve most of the fruit while removing most (if not all) of the skin and pith.

Cut another strip of peel off of the citrus fruit when you have completely removed the first one. Repeat this process until you have cut off all of the skin and most (if not all) of the pith from the entire fruit.

Pick up the citrus fruit gently, as it will now be very fragile. Carefully slice off any remaining pith with your sharp knife. Avoid squeezing the fruit as you do this. Without its peel to protect it, the fruit will collapse in your hand if you squeeze it.

Warning

Always cut away from yourself when using a knife. Make sure your fingers are not in the path of the knife, especially when cutting the fruit on the cutting board.

Putting a slice of lemon in your water is hands down the easiest way to feel like a wellness rockstar. You could have spent the whole weekend eating double-stuffed Oreos and your sneakers could be gathering dust in the back of your closet, but put a little citrus in your H20 and boom—you feel healthier already. But while much talk is done around lemon water, the benefits of the lemon peel are pretty much ignored. Which is honestly too bad because they’re full of benefits just like the rest of the fruit.

“Despite the fact that lemon peels are often discarded, they do have nutritional benefits,” says registered dietitian Katherine Brooking, RD. “The lemon peel is contains small amounts of calcium, vitamin C, and potassium, as well as fiber.” Considering you’re not exactly going to sit down and nosh on lemon peel, you might be wondering what the best way is to reap that stellar list of benefits. Well, keep reading my friend. Besides more details on the nutritional benefits, we’ve got some other surprising ways to put lemon peel to good use.

Scroll down to see the nutritional benefits of lemon peel, how to consume them, and other ways to put them to good use.

1. Lemon peels contain calcium. As Brooking pointed out, lemon peels have a small amount of calcium, which is important for maintaining strong bones and cellular communication. Simply put, if you don’t get enough calcium, your body isn’t going to function properly, so it’s important to get enough. (For women, that’s 1,000 milligrams a day for women 50 of younger.)

2. They’re good for your immune system. Like other citrus fruits, lemon peels contain vitamin C, which can help keep your immune system strong. If you’re starting to feel sick, zesting lemon peel into your foods or even in your tea could help give your body the extra boost it needs to power through.

3. Lemon peels have potassium. Lemon peels also have a small amount of potassium, which like calcium, is needed for cells in the body to communicate properly. Especially if you sweat a lot (yes you, in your post hot-yoga drenched workout clothes), it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough. Otherwise, your body just isn’t going to function.

4. They’re good for your digestive system. To Brooking’s point about the fiber in lemon peel, this is important because fiber is crucial for keeping your digestive track running properly. Other major fiber benefits: helping lower inflammation and keeping your metabolism in check.

5. They could be good for your heart. “There is some evidence that lemon peels may help to lower blood pressure,” Brooking says, citing a scientific study that found that a combination of consuming lemon and walking every day lowered blood pressure. “The water extract of lemon peels had a suppressive effect on blood pressure,” the study reads, in part.

6. Lemon peels could help protect against cancer. “Some studies indicate that limonene and the other flavonoids in lemon rind are directly linked to preventing the formation and spread of cancerous tumors, particularly, cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and stomach,” Brooking says. It seems that their anti-inflammatory powers are really quite strong.

How to consume lemon peels

1. As a zest. All of these health benefits sound fantastic, but what exactly is the best way to consume lemon peel? According to Brooking, the most common way is as a zest—and it literally works on anything. Not only will you reap the nutritional rewards, but it makes everything taste just a little bit fresher. “While most of us don’t eat raw lemon peels, a great way to incorporate the peel into your diet is by freezing whole, organic lemons,” Brooking says. “Grate the sprinkles of lemon peel over your yogurt or oatmeal, in your drinks, and on your soups for a zesty flavor.”

2. Make a lemon peel-infused olive oil. Make your own lemon peel olive oil to drizzle on your salad, zucchini noodles, or fish to get all the nutritional benefits mentioned here and a good serving of healthy fats. Talk about a genius pantry staple!

3. Work it into your butter. This is an especially good tip if you’re a ketogenic diet devotee and butter is an oft-used item at your house. Zest lemon peel right into your butter so it’s ready to spread on all your fave foods. This tastes delish on savory and sweet dishes.

Other surprising uses for lemon peels

1. Use them to make a non-toxic all-purpose cleaning solution. Lemons are an all-natural cleaning powerhouse, peels included! Make your own solution by infusing lemon peels in a jar of vinegar. And you’ll still get that “just cleaned” smell, too.

2. Work it into a DIY beauty treatment. Thanks to the citric acid, lemon peels could be beneficial for treating acne. Make your own beauty water by grating lemon skins into a bowl, squeezing the juice into another bowl, and then mixing the peels and juice together. Then, gently massage the solution into your face for an all-natural, acne-fighting treatment.

3. Use them to make insect repellant. Um, best smelling bug spray ever? Instead of something loaded with weird chemicals, rubbing lemon peel on your skin can help keep insects away.

4. Stash them anywhere that stinks. Whether it’s the bottom of your trash can, your bathroom, or in the fridge, lemon peels can help neutralize gross smells. Just throw them wherever needs some freshening up.

While we’re on the subject of citrus, grapefruit and oranges have some pretty stellar benefits of their own.

Whenever I walk into a grocery store produce section I have this uncontrollable urge to buy citrus! It seems I can’t leave the store without buying 4 or 5 lemons or limes. If you follow me on Pinterest you will see I have a bit of an obsession with lemons. My “Lemon Joy” board has over 600 pins!!

Can you blame me??? Lemons are amazing! They truly are the “multi-purpose” fruit! They have so MANY purposes that I wasn’t even going to ATTEMPT to include them all in one post. So today we’re going to start with the lemon PEEL and work our way into the juice (in a future post.)

I got the idea for this post when I decided to try making my own Lemon Vinegar. I personally like vinegar just the way it is and the smell never has bothered me, but when I start using it at home the “boys” act like I’m spraying napalm around the house! They are so dramatic! (I have no idea where they get THAT from!) I’d seen all kinds of pins on Pinterest about a cleaning solution made of ORANGE peels and vinegar, and decided to try it out with lemons instead. It was worth a try if it would reduce the whining around here. 🙂

I didn’t have any lemon peels just laying around, but I had just purchased a bag of lemons (big surprise) so I decided to juice them and freeze the juice for later use, then I went ahead and sliced up the peels.

I had enough to fill two quart-sized mason jars, then I poured in vinegar until it reached just under the neck of the bottle. I put the lid on tightly and I waited. TWO WEEKS I waited! Which for me is like TWO YEARS! lol. I am the most impatient person I have ever met, besides my Dad. 🙂 I actually had to put the bottles away in a cupboard so I couldn’t see them and be tempted to use it prematurely.

But I am happy to report that it was worth the wait! Not only did the vinegar now have a very nice lemony aroma (you still smell the vinegar, but not nearly as strongly as before) it cleaned stuff like crazy!

All-Purpose Lemon Vinegar Cleaner:

  • Fill container of your choice with cut up lemon peels.
  • Add vinegar to cover the peels. Seal with tight-fitting lid.
  • Put it away and forget about it for two weeks.
  • After two weeks, strain the lemon peels from the vinegar then add water. I used on a 50/50 mix of water and lemon vinegar.

The first place I tried my new cleaning solution was the place in my kitchen that gets the greasiest and dirtiest…the stove. Specifically the stove hood! It’s kind of a litmus test for cleaners around here. If it can clean THERE, it can clean ANYWHERE! And it cut through the grease and grime like it was nothing! I am really LOVING this stuff!

So what else can you do with Lemon Peels?

The list might surprise you!

Here are 25 MORE things to do with lemon peels:

Skin Lightener/Brightener
Lemon is a natural skin lightener because of the citric acid in them which is a bleaching agent. Apply leftover lemon peels to your hands, elbows and heels to refresh and lighten the skin and tighten pores.

Garbage Disposal Deodorizer
Lemon (or orange) peels tossed regularly into the garbage disposal will keep the garbage disposal smelling fresh.

Simmering Stove Top Scents
Add lemon rinds to simmering water along with cloves, cinnamon sticks, and orange peels to make a delightful aroma AND humidify the air.

Ant-Proof Your Kitchen
Scatter small slices of lemon peel along thresholds, windowsills, around door entrances, and near any cracks or holes where ants or pests may be entering. Ants do not like lemon and will not enter your home. Lemons are also effective against roaches and fleas.

Coffee Cup Stain Remover
Put a section of lemon peel into a stained coffee mug and add water. Let it sit for several hours, then wipe with a cloth. Stains should disappear.

Refrigerator Freshness
Cut lemon in half and let it absorb fridge smells.

Tea Kettle/Coffee Pot Cleaner
For mineral deposit build up in your tea kettle, fill the kettle with water, add a handful of thin slices of lemon peel and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for an hour, drain, and rinse well. For coffee pots, add ice, salt and lemon rinds to the empty pot; swish and swirl for a minute or two, dump, and rinse.

Microwave Cleaner
Add lemon rinds to a microwave-safe bowl filled halfway with water. Cook on high for 5 minutes, allowing the water to boil and the steam to condense inside. Carefully remove the hot bowl and wipe away the mess with a damp towel.

Chrome Polish
Cut through mineral deposits on chrome faucets and other tarnished chrome by rubbing with a squeezed lemon half, rinsing, and lightly buffing with a soft cloth.

Copper, Brass, & Stainless Steel Polish
Brighten copper, brass, or stainless steel by dipping a juiced lemon half in salt (you also use baking soda or cream of tartar for the salt) and rubbing on the affected area. Leave on for 5 minutes. Then rinse in warm water and polish dry.

Stove Top Humidifier
If your home suffers from dry heat in the winter, put lemon peels in a pot of water and simmer on the lowest stove-top setting to humidify and scent the air.

Cutting Board Refesher
The antibacterial properties of lemons make them a good choice for refreshing cutting boards. After disinfecting give the surface a rub with a halved lemon, let sit for a few minutes, and rinse.

Brown Sugar Keeper
Add lemon peel (with pulp removed) to brown sugar to help keep it moist and easy to use.

Lemon Zest
Zest is simply grated peel, and it can be used fresh, dried, or frozen. If you don’t have a zester, use the smallest size of a box grater. To dry zest, spread it on a towel and leave out until dried, then store in a jar. To freeze, use a freezer-safe container. Use zest in salads, marinades, baked goods, grain dishes, etc.

Lemon Twists
Use a vegetable peeler or a knife to cut the peel into long strips, cutting away the white pith which is bitter. These can also be frozen in a freezer-safe container or bag. Great in cocktails, sparkling water, and tap water.

Lemon Extract Powder
Using the zest or twists from above, dry the strips skin-side down on a plate about 3 or 4 days. Put in a blender (or spice grinder) and pulverize into a powder. Use the powdered peel in place of extract or zest in recipes.

Lemon Sugar
Add lemon extract powder (see above) to sugar, or use fresh twists, put them in a jar with sugar and let them infuse the sugar.

Lemon Pepper
Mix lemon extract powder (see above) with freshly cracked pepper.

Candied lemon peel
Candied peels can be eaten plain, or dipped in melted chocolate, used in cake, cookie, candy, or bread recipes.

Lemon Sugar Scrub
Mix 1/2 cup sugar with finely chopped lemon peel and enough olive oil to make a paste. Wet your body in the shower, turn off the water and massage sugar mix all over your skin, rinse. Feel the softness!

Nail Whitener
Whiten fingernails by rubbing with a lemon wedge.

Travel Sickness Cure
Suck on a slice of lemon to help you stop feeling nauseous.

Grater Cleaner
Remove dried food from your grater by rubbing with the pulp side of a cut lemon.

Firelighters
Bake discarded orange or lemon peels until they darken. These create natural, fragrant firelighters.

Trash Can Deodorizer
Throw a few lemon peels in the bottom of the can from time to time to keep it smelling fresh.

Remember…..When Life Gives You Lemons…..Don’t Throw Away The Peels!

What do you use Lemon Peels for?

Hi, I’m Jillee!

I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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Bright Ideas

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Squeezing a bit of fresh lemon juice over a savory dish adds a bit of brightness and helps balance out any overpowering richness, but there’s another portion of the lemon you should be sprinkling all over your culinary existence: the peel or, if you’re a regular barefoot count or countess, “zest.”

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Of course, when I say “peel,” I’m talking about the bright yellow, very outer portion of the lemon, not the bitter, white pith. This golden plant matter is brilliant whether finely grated with a microplane or sliced into thin strips. Where lemon juice cuts through other flavors with an aggressive hit of acid, the oil contained in zest takes much more nuanced approach, gently balancing other flavors while releasing the aroma of a freshly-peeled lemon. It’s bright, warm, a tiny bit floral, and ever-so-slightly bitter. Here are some of my favorite things to finish with the stuff.

  • Any and all vanilla-forward or cream-based desserts: Cheesecake, pound cake, rich vanilla custards, and pretty much every other rich, creamy dessert benefits from a sprinkling of fine zest, particularly if they are studded with a complimentary fruit. (Banana is the only fruit I can think of that you probably shouldn’t pair it with.)
  • Salads, particularly if they’re rockin’ some salty cheese: I’m especially fond of a shredded Brussels sprouts salad made with lots of parmesan, and sprinkled with generous amount of lemon zest. Not only are the flavors destined to be best friends, but there is nothing prettier than a big pile of finely shredded cheese studded with little golden bits of zest.
  • Creamy pasta dishes: It’s a fact that balancing out unctuous dishes with a bit of citrus keeps your palate from getting oversaturated, allowing you to eat more of said dish. This is particularly true of pasta that is accompanied by cream-based sauces, which is great, because eating lots of pasta is one of my main goals. If you want a recipe that really capitalizes on this maxim, try this one from Serious Eats.
  • All sorts of seafood: Though my pairing-lemon-with-seafood practices are firmly rooted in squeezing wedges over whole, fried catfish, I prefer a sprinkling of zest when dealing with more delicately treated seafood, such as scallops, broiled fish, or sautéed shrimp.
  • Most cocktails: This is one of those instances where you need a big ol’ strip, rather than a mess of grated zest, but the oils contained within will add the perfect finishing touch to almost any cocktail, whether it be whiskey-based, gin-forward, or amaro-heavy.
  • Roasted vegetables: From starchy root vegetables to hearty, bitter greens, there are few roasted veggies that don’t benefit from lemon zest, particularly if you get some fried herbs involved.
  • A whole lotta chicken: Grilled chicken, roasted chicken, chicken salad, and even fried chicken is made a little more finger-licking good with a bright hit of grated zest.

Obviously lemon bars, lemon poppyseed anything, and any other lemon-based dish deserve a bit of the zest, but I don’t need to tell you that. That’s a pretty obvious.

How to julienne lemon zest Perfect, super-thin slices with massive flavor. The possibilities are endless!

There are a few items in any kitchen that are absolutely indispensible. Think olive oil, salt and garlic – who can cook without them? And fresh lemons are right at the top of my list of must-have ingredients. I’ll admit that I cannot cook without lemons… and no, I don’t juice them ahead of time. Their floral aroma and bright acidity fade quickly if you do.

Although lemons are prized for their beautiful juice, their skin is even more aromatic. Indeed, the outer layer of the lemon peel (the flavedo or zest) is packed with aromatic oil glands that deliver quite a punch.

Not all zesting techniques are created equal…

The zest can be grated with a microplane grater when used in salad dressings, sauces or desserts. You can also use a “zester,” which is a nifty little tool with small holes in it that will give you bits of zest. But for many applications, it’s best to julienne the lemon zest with a chef’s knife, cutting it in super-thin strips. This method gives you sturdier slices and allows you to be more creative with your zest. You can roast the slices in the oven (like for this pizza), sauté them with vegetables or use them as a marinade. They hold their shape and deliver more flavor. The possibilities are endless!

Follow these tips, and the julienne cut will be the easiest part!

To learn how to julienne lemon zest to perfection, watch the video below. I’ll show you a couple of tricks, like choosing firm lemons and making sure not to peel any of the bitter pith (the white inner skin). These tips make all the difference, and let you experience the full beauty of lemons – inside and out.

Recipes

Shaved Brussels sprout pizza with burrata and dried lemon zest
Fresh chickpea fettuccine with lemon sauce and honey-roasted cherry tomatoes
Marinated olives with fennel, lemon and chili pepper

How to julienne lemon zest

makes 1/3 cup
active time: 5 min

  1. 1 large, firm lemon
  2. very sharp chef’s knife
  1. Peel the lemon lengthwise with a vegetable hand-peeler in 2″ to 3″ strips. (Make sure not to put too much pressure on the peeler. You want to peel only the zest and not the white pith, which is quite bitter.) Then cut each strip lengthwise in 1/16″ slices. You should have about 1/3 cup loosely packed julienned lemon slices. Use the slices right away or place them in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
Viviane’s tip
  1. It’s best to use the julienned lemon slices as soon as you’ve cut them, because they quickly lose their flavor when stored.

Cooking tips, lemon, julienne