ORANGES are at their best in winter. Delicious sweet navels have just come into season and I recently visited my favourite orchard to pick a bucket of delicious Bulga oranges*.
We're enjoying freshly squeezed orange juice with breakfast and orange jelly has become a regular treat. I haven't looked at the ingredients on a packet of jelly lately - but I'm certain it would include loads of sugar and a few artificial colours and flavours. Jelly can be easily made using only juice, honey and gelatine (or agar agar for a vegan version). I just sweeten the juice to taste and simply follow the instructions on the gelatine packet.
Enjoying this seasonal bounty has left my compost bin overflowing with citrus peel, so I'm exploring useful ways to use it. My favourite is homemade citrus cleaner. I fill a jar with peel, cover with white vinegar, pop on the lid and leave in a dark cupboard. After brewing for a couple of weeks I strain the vinegar into a spray bottle. Citrus peel contains a natural solvent, making it a powerful, inexpensive, all-purpose natural cleaner.
Given its high oil content, orange peel also makes a good fire starter.
Dry the peel on a tray in the sun or by the fire and a few weeks later you'll have a pile of sweet smelling fire starters. I dry our peels on top of our pot-belly stove and as a bonus our home smells delicious.
Hundreds of other ways to use citrus peel are revealed by a quick search of the internet. Orange peel chutney, chocolate-dipped candied peel and cooking an egg in an orange peel over a camp fire are next on my list. I might even rub peel all over my face, as apparently the citric acid in the peel will make my face 'glow'.
*Betty and Harold of Hillsdale Orchard, Thompsons Road Bulga, welcome the public to come and pick their own oranges. To arrange a visit phone 02 65745173. You'll also find their oranges at Lake Macquarie City Farmers Markets each Saturday and Newcastle City Farmers Markets each Sunday.
Tricia writes about learning to live better with less at littleecofootprints.com.