Here in Arizona, we are blessed with a long growing season, predominantly warm weather, and a ton of sun. This means that things that don’t grow well in other parts of the country, like citrus trees, can flourish here. This time of year you can see several different kinds of trees bursting with fruit wherever you look. Fresh locally grown oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes are filling the bins and baskets of our grocery stores and farmer’s markets, which is great if you are a consumer.
But what if you aren’t a farmer and you don’t own an orchard, but you have citrus trees in your yard that are providing an overabundance of fruit? Although it might seem like a strange problem to have to people in other parts of the country, many Arizonians find themselves with flourishing fruit trees that produce significantly more fruit than their family can consume. Even after giving the excess away to friends and family, they can’t always give enough away to make sure it gets put to good use before it goes bad. Never fear! The experts at Fill Your Plate are here to help! Here are 3 great things to do with your leftover oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes.
1. Donate It
The United Food Bank Citrus Gleaning Program provides homeowners in Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, and Queen Creek a way to donate their excess fruit. Donations help the organization create the 40,000+ meals it provides every day to people in Arizona. The program provides a few alternatives for picking and delivery of excess fruit. For more information, visit United Food Bank on the web.
St Mary’s Food Bank Alliance offers a similar program for homeowners in the majority of Arizona’s counties and includes the cities of Flagstaff, Phoenix, and Surprise. For more information, visit St Mary’s Food Bank Alliance on the web.
2. Preserve It
If you find yourself with excess citrus this time of year there are several different ways you can preserve that food to make it available for your family for the rest of the year. What better way to spread your food dollar than to grow your own food and then put it up for use all year round. For citrus, you have several options for preservation.
- Canning is a great way to preserve fresh fruit. Citrus can be canned in water, light syrup, heavy syrup, or an artificial sweetener solution. Canned citrus that is processed and stored correctly can last for 6 to 9 months.
- Freezing is also a good way to preserve your fruit for later consumption. You can either freeze the fruit or turn the fruit into juice and freeze the juice. Follow the instructions for safely freezing your excess citrus and you can enjoy the health benefits and fabulous flavors for 8-12 months.
- Dehydration is another great option for preserving some types of fruit. Slices of lemons and limes can be dehydrated and stored in jars for later use in flavoring water. Oranges and grapefruits are not great candidates for dehydration.
3. Make Jam or Jelly from It
One of the best ways to use up excess fruit of any kind is to make it into jam, jelly, preserves, marmalades, and compotes. These condiments can be used throughout the year by your family, but also make great gifts for various occasions throughout the year. Here are some recipes for turning your excess oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes into condiments.
- Gleaners Needed! Help St. Mary’s Save this Winter’s Citrus Crop! (fillyourplate.org)
- Fresh Arizona Fruit: More Thank Just Desserts (fillyourplate.org)
- Arizona Produce By Season (fillyourplate.org)