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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 a lemon or other type of citrus tree growing in your backyard?

Chances are, if you live in California, the Southwest or Southeastern United States, you do or your neighbor does.

While many people throughout the rest of the nation are waiting for snow to disappear, we get to enjoy the sight of colorful citrus fruit hanging from our trees, just ready to be picked and enjoyed.

During this time of year, neighbors give bags of excess fruit to neighbors or local food banks.

I have a young lemon tree, that isn’t old enough to produce fruit for me, but that hasn’t stopped me from having lemons to use.


Between my mother’s prolific lemon tree on the family farm to those from my vet (who happens to be our neighbor), I have plenty to use.

I’ve used lemons in a variety of ways from freezing the zest, the juice, making citrus cleaner, natural air fresheners and was looking for another way to use them.

I recently learned about lemon salt and how great it tastes on my favorite dishes – chicken, fish, homemade salad dressings, salsa and much more – basically anything that you want to add a hint of citrus and salt too.

Making lemon salt is very easy to do and can be done using grapefruit, limes or oranges instead.

Citrus salts make a great homemade gift and are also a great way to preserve the taste of your favorite citrus when they are no longer in season.  

Whether you grow your own lemons or buy them from the store, lemon salt is easy to make.


1. You’ll need 3 lemons and 1 cup of kosher salt.

2. Zest 3 lemons.


 3. Add together 1 cup kosher salt, the lemon zest and the juice from 1 lemon.

(Of course, you can make a lot more, like I did – I had a lot of lemons and wanted to make some as gifts.)


4. Mix together the lemon juice, salt and zest.



5. Pour the lemon salt mixture into a shallow baking dish or cookie sheet.

6. Place in a 200 degree F. oven for a half hour.  Then lightly mix it up and bake for another 20 minutes.
(If it hasn’t dried all the way, cover it with a clean dish towel and let sit overnight.)


7. Use your fingers to break up any large clumps or you can put it in your food processor and pulse it 2 – 3 times.


That’s it!  I told you it was easy.  You can use it right away or store it in a sealed jar to keep it for longer.

Lemon or salts made from other citrus fruit last a long time – at least a year if put in a sealed container.

If you love lemon pepper, you can simply add pepper to the mixture for a delicious addition to your steak!


I’ve been enjoying making flavored salts for cooking with.  Last year, I made basil and herb salts, which were delicious too!

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?  
I have spent the past few weeks indoors whenever possible avoiding the desert heat.  While I do venture outdoors occasionally to do consults and take a weekly tour of the garden to make sure everything is okay.

We did lose a small tree and some branches during a fierce monsoon storm over the weekend, but I was grateful for the rain and the cool temperatures that followed.

Last week, I showed you some of my favorite plant photos.  This week, I would like to share with you some of my favorite DIY blog posts, most of which you can do inside.
One of my favorite DIY projects was creating natural air-fresheners.

I don’t know about you, but I do not like the heavy, artificial smells of air-freshener sprays – not to mention the idea of chemicals floating through the air.  So, the idea of making air-fresheners using  plants definitely appealed to me.


I hope you are inspired to make you own!

Have you ever sprayed air-freshener in your home?  Does it ever smell like the fragrance described on the can?


I must confess that I have used air-fresheners in the past, but I was never happy with how my house smelled afterward.  To me, the fragrances were so ‘artificial’ and I also wondered if there were some ingredients in these sprays that maybe weren’t so healthy to be inhaling.


So, I was quite intrigued when I heard about ‘natural’ air fresheners made from plants – many of which I had in my own garden.


Imagine if your home had the natural fragrance of citrus paired with your favorite herbs drifting throughout.  No overpowering, artificial fragrance, just subtle, refreshing scents.  

The combinations are endless and the fragrance is released into the air by adding the contents of jar and enough water to fill a small pot at least 1/2 – 3/4 full.  Heat to boiling and then turn the heat down to low and allow it to simmer for a couple of hours.  That’s it!


So are you as excited about creating your own ‘natural’ air fresheners as I am? 


Let’s get started with some ingredients that can be used to create your own unique fragrant combination(s):



All types of citrus are refreshing and can serve as the base of your air freshener.  I chose lemons, oranges and limes.  But, if you have a grapefruit tree that is overly generous with its fruit, they would work well too!


Now let’s grab some herbs from the garden (or grocery store)….



Basil



Thyme

Mint


Rosemary and lavender would also work great, but I didn’t have any growing in my garden.


I also decided to use vanilla extract and peppercorns in my mixtures.


Are you ready for the fun part and make some wonderful natural fragrance combinations?


Here are a few that I made…



I love cooking (and eating) Italian food – even though I have not Italian ancestry that I know of.  So, I like this combination of 1 sprig of basil, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns and a few slices of lemon – it makes my home smell fresh as I imagine an Italian kitchen would smell like.


I added these ingredients to jam jars and filled them with water to the top…

I think it looks pretty, don’t you?


Of course, if you will use them right away, skip the jar and add directly to a small pot.  Pour more water until it reaches 3/4 full, heat to boiling, lower the heat to low and enjoy for a few hours – KEEP an eye on the water level and add more as needed – DON’T let it dry out.


Here is another combination that I love…



A few slices of lime, 4 – 5 sprigs of thyme, a sprig of mint and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.


You can make up one air freshener at a time, or make a few and store them in the refrigerator for a week or freeze them for longer until ready to use – just make sure to freeze them in a freezer-safe container such as a wide-mouth jar, like I have.


Lastly, this is my favorite combination and only has two ingredients…



Oranges and vanilla extract.



I sliced half an orange and added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  The fragrance reminds me of the orange sherbet / vanilla ice-cream that I ate when I was a child.


You can also add cinnamon sticks or a few whole cloves to this mixture for a more spicy fragrance.


If you have ever stepped into a Williams & Sonoma store, they have their own natural air freshener recipe:


Lemon slices
Rosemary sprigs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract


In addition to the ingredients that I have used, here are some others that you can experiment with to create your own unique natural air freshener: citrus peels, apple peels, almond extract, peppermint extract, coconut extract, ginger, nutmeg, ground cinnamon, whole cloves, bay leaves, basil, sage, lavender, oregano and rosemary.



Have fun creating your own fragrance combinations. 


If you want to add a little freshness to your home, don’t waste your time spraying artificial fragrance through your home.  You can create wonderful combinations of scents using items in your garden, refrigerator and pantry.


**For additional fragrant combinations, click here.


I hope you enjoy making these natural air fresheners as much as I do!



In the Desert Southwest, we are fortunate to be able to grow citrus.  In early fall, your citrus tree probably looks like the one pictured, with green fruit that is getting ready to ripen in this winter.

 
It is time for the third fertilizer application to your citrus trees if you have not already done so.  Mature citrus trees require three applications of fertilizer – around Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day.
 
Citrus trees require nitrogen more than any other nutrient.  I recommend using a granular fertilizer specially formulated for citrus because, in addition to nitrogen, they also contain micronutrients, (iron, zinc, manganese), that are vital to the health of your citrus tree.  Citrus fertilizer spikes are also an option.
 
If you choose to use only organic fertilizer for your citrus, there are some natural products available, or you can use composted cow manure, working it into the top few inches of soil and watering it in afterward.
 
GENERAL GUIDELINES:
 
– Fertilizer should not be applied to newly planted trees – wait until they have been in the ground for one year.
 
– Water the soil around the tree before and after you apply fertilizer.
 
– Follow the directions on the fertilizer bag.  Be sure that you divide by three the annual amount of fertilizer needed by your tree – do not apply all at once!
 
– When in doubt, apply slightly less fertilizer then you think you need.  You don’t want to over-fertilize and end up with fertilizer burn.  Smaller trees require less fertilizer than larger trees.
 
– Apply granular fertilizer around the perimeter of the tree, extending just past the drip line.  Work into the top few inches of soil.
 
– Do not apply a foliar fertilizer when air temperatures are 85 degrees F or above because there is a danger of burning the foliage.
 
– For mature Grapefruit trees, (over six years old), apply only 1/2 the amount of fertilizer recommended on the fertilizer label because high amounts of nitrogen promote a thick rind (peel).
 
Get ready to enjoy the fruits of your labors this winter and get ready for March when we will discuss the correct way to prune and plant citrus.