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While most of the garden is asleep in winter, citrus trees are filled with sweet, tart fruit ready for picking.

 
Citrus trees are very generous in the amount of fruit that they produce. So much so, that people are often inundated with more citrus than they can eat.
 
This time of year, people find bags and even boxes of freshly-picked citrus left at their door by neighbors who are happy to share their bounty. 
 
So, whether you have boxes of citrus or have to run to the grocery store for your favorite lemons and oranges – here are some creative ways that I use citrus.
 
1. Freezing Lemon Zest
 
 
Lemon zest adds great flavor to your favorite foods and it is easy to freeze.
 
Simply put the lemon zest in a plastic freezer bag and keep in the freezer for up to a year.  
 
2. Natural Lemon Freshener
 
 
 
The fresh scent of lemon is welcoming when you walk into a room.  Instead of using artificial air fresheners, you can use citrus to create natural ones.
 
Ingredients such as basil, lemon slices, and peppercorns OR orange slices with vanilla create wonderful fragrances.
 
Add the ingredients to a small pot, fill to 3/4 full with water and heat to boiling.  Then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and enjoy the fragrance for the next couple of hours.
 
Click here for more information and combinations for natural air fresheners.
 
3. Household Citrus Cleaner
 
 
Citrus peels and vinegar combine to create a natural citrus cleaner that is suitable to use around the house.
 
You will need the peels from any type of citrus and white distilled vinegar.
 
– Fill a large jar (or container) with the citrus peels and fill the jar with vinegar.
 
– Store in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks.
 
– After 3 weeks, pour the mixture through a strainer to remove any pulp.
 
– Transfer the citrus/vinegar mixture to a spray bottle, filling it halfway.  Add water to fill the rest of the spray bottle.
 
– Your natural citrus cleaner is ready to use to wherever vinegar-based cleaners are safe to use such as countertops, walls, faucets, mirrors, and glass.  Don’t use on granite or marble as the vinegar can etch the surface.
 
*The peels can be frozen for use later.
 
4. Frozen Citrus Ice Cubes
 
 
An easy way to preserve lemons from your tree when the fruit is but a distant memory – add lemon juice to ice cube trays and freeze.
 
Once frozen, pop out the lemon ice cubes and place in a plastic freezer bag and store for future use.  These ice cubes are a great way to add lemon when you cook throughout the entire year.  
 
 
 
If you love to cook, lemon salt is a great way to add subtle lemon flavor to your favorite dishes and it’s easy to make – all you need is kosher salt and lemons.
 
I made lemon salt last year and it is delicious – I promise, you’ll love it. Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial.
 
Do you have any ways that you like to use citrus?

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Do you have citrus trees?  If you live in zone 9 or higher, chances that you or your neighbor has a citrus tree or two growing in their backyard.



It may be hard for those who live in colder climates to understand, but those of who grow citrus often have more than we can eat.  In fact, it’s not unusual to see boxes and bags filled with citrus fruit by the curb free for the taking. Sometimes excess citrus fruit is simply left on the tree or falls to the ground.


While it’s true that you can only eat so much citrus in the few months it appears in your tree, did you know that there are other ways you can use citrus?

Here are 5 creative ways to use citrus:

1. Citrus Natural Air Fresheners


Who doesn’t love the fresh scent of citrus?  Well, you can bring the scents of citrus into your home by making your own natural air fresheners.

In addition to citrus, you can add other fragrant ingredients such as mint, thyme, vanilla and even basil and peppercorns.

Click here to learn how easy it is to make your own – they make great gifts too!

2. Citrus Bouquets


The leaves of citrus are dark green and glossy and they make a great filler in bouquets.  

If you have a citrus tree that produces smaller fruit such as a kumquat or lime tree, you can cut a few branches and leave the fruit on it for a colorful, natural centerpiece.

3. Natural Citrus Cleaner


Did you know that the peels of citrus can be used to make an effective, natural cleaner for your home?

It doesn’t matter what type of citrus peel you use – all you need are peels, vinegar and a large jar.

Click here to learn how to make your own.

4. Freeze Citrus Zest


How many times have you made a recipe that needed lemon, lime or orange zest?  Now, when citrus are in season, all I have to do is walk outdoors and pick what I need.  But what about the rest of the year or for those of you who don’t grow citrus?

It turns out the citrus zest can be frozen.  So, just before you peel or juice an orange, zest if first and put the zest in a plastic freezer bag.  

I have frozen citrus zest in my freezer, ready for me to use.  

5. Lemon Ice Cubes


Lemon and sometimes lime juice are a popular ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes.  An easy way to preserve your lemon harvest is to freeze the juice into individual ice cubes.  Once frozen, pop them out and save them in a plastic freezer bag.

When you need to use them, simply put an ice cube in a small bowl and stick in the microwave for 30 seconds on high to melt.  That’s it!  I do this for my homemade salsa.

Whether you grow your own citrus or buy it at the store – make the most of them by using one or more of these creative tips.

How about you?  Do you have any tips for using citrus fruit?  
Well, it is that time of year again, when citrus trees are full of fruit and that includes the lemon tree at Double S Farms.

Growing up in California, we always had a lemon tree in the backyard and I kind of took them for granted.  Then I grew up and moved into my first house in Arizona, which didn’t have a lemon tree although we did have grapefruit and oranges.
I love lemon trees and will maybe plant one in our side garden next year.  

You know who else likes lemon trees….. Jose, the migrating hummingbird.  Jose is a Costa’s Hummingbird and he is quite tame, letting us approach him fairly closely to take pictures.  You can read more about Jose here.

Okay, back to lemons….. I am so thankful that my mother and sister are very generous with their lemons and I frequently have more lemons then I know what to do with. 

*By the way, it is time to fertilize your citrus trees, if you have not already done so this year.

In order to make the lemon harvest last longer this year in my kitchen, I filled ice cube trays with lemon juice and then put them in a ziploc bag that I keep in the freezer.  So, when I need a little lemon juice for a recipe, I just grab an ice cube or two.

I also zested the lemons and have also frozen that as well.  So, I am well prepared for cooking.  


You can learn how to freeze lemon juice and zest, here.


Another thing that you can do with your lemons is to make natural air fresheners.  They really do scent the air without having to use ‘air-fresheners’ made from chemicals.  You can learn how to make your own, here.

Each year, my mother (Pastor Farmer), makes a delicious lemon cream pie.  It is very light and just so yummy.  She graciously wrote out the recipe so that I could share it with all of you.

I hope you enjoy it!

CITRUS MOUSSE

Graham Cracker Pie Crust
Two 12 oz. containers of whipped topping (Cool Whip)
One 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup grapefruit juice

Beat together whipped topping and sweetened condensed milk.  Then add the lemon and grapefruit juice.  
Pour into graham cracker pie crust and chill for at least 2 hours.

*This pie can be frozen and you can substitute more lemon juice for the grapefruit juice if desired. 

Today, was a very special day in the garden and it took almost 2 years to reach this date.


Today marks the first harvest from our young orange tree. 

When planting trees, it is best to dig them 3x as wide as the rootball to allow roots an easier time to grow outward.  However, plant at the same depth as the root ball.
Back in February of 2012, we bought our first citrus tree for our edible side garden.

Years ago in our first home in Phoenix, we had large, mature citrus trees.  My two oldest daughters (then 9 and 4 years old) would climb up into our grapefruit tree.  We also had orange and lemon trees on our flood irrigated lot near 48th Street and Thomas.

I’m not sure why it took us so long to plant an orange tree in our current home.  But, our youngest kids loved picking oranges from their grandparent’s blood orange tree.  So, shortly after the birth of our granddaughter, I decided it was time to plant one in our garden.


My youngest daughter and son were anxious to help plant their very own orange tree under the guidance of their older sister.

I explained to the kids that it would take a few years to see any fruit form on our new tree.  So, we settled ourselves in for a long wait.

The first year, we did see orange blossoms form, but no fruit set.  This is normal for a newly planted tree, so I wasn’t surprised.

Last fall, were thrilled to discover oranges forming on our tree.

I must admit that it was hard to be patient at this point.  I couldn’t wait for them to start turning orange.

My husband kept asking me when it was time to pick the new oranges.  I explained (more then once) that they had to come off easily when lightly pulled and twisted at the same time.

*Citrus does not continue to ripen and get sweeter after picked.  So it is best to leave them on the tree until they are ready to be picked.

Some varieties of orange will have a little green color on their skin like Valencia oranges.  However, Navel oranges should be mostly orange before picking.


Today, I decided was the day to pick our new oranges.  My granddaughter was here and ready to help.


She needed a little help, but they did come off fairly easily.


While our harvest was quite small, I don’t think we will ever enjoy the taste of a fresh orange more then this one that took 2 years of waiting.


The variety of orange that we planted is called ‘Arizona Sweet’, which is great for both juice and eating in sections.

To make the most of our small harvest, I will make orange vinaigrette dressing for our salad tonight.  But before I juice the oranges, I will take the orange zest and freeze it for later use, which is an easy way to extend your citrus harvest. I have done this before with lemons harvested from my mother’s large lemon tree.  To learn how, click here.

Do you have citrus in your garden?  What kind(s) do you grow?