More Lemons – zero waste

Apologies to anyone who has already read this on my Facebook page last week (before I deleted my account), but I’m going to repeat that post here.

My neighbour bought over huge bucket of lemons last week, about 60 – so I spent the whole weekend processing them.

10 went into a jar with salt and spices to make Moroccan preserved lemons

another 10 sliced and frozen to put in summer drinks

the rest were zested and juiced, the juice and half the zest frozen for later use.

The remaining zest is being steeped in aguadente ( local fire water) and will become Limoncello in about a month or so.

Manky zest and scrap ends of lemons put into a container to make citrus enzyme cleaner.

left over pith boiled up for a couple hours to make pectin, now frozen in ice cube trays for later use in jam-making

Half the boiled up pith became the marinade for that night’s lemon and tarragon chicken, and the rest was fed to the pigs.

The zest that is currently making Limoncello will be blended and used in a dessert, and the leftovers from the citrus cleaner will be composted, absolutely zero-waste!

 

 

 

 

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Citrus Enzyme Cleaner

I hate waste and am always looking to re-use, recycle etc wherever possible. I also only use natural cleaning products, so the glut of citrus fruit recently has been a real bonus to my cleaning supplies in the form of Citrus Enzyme Cleaner.

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Left over citrus peels mixed with warm water and sugar and left to ferment for 3 months. I put mine in a clip-top jar because it’s easy, and you have to release the gases twice a day for the first few weeks, otherwise it’s likely to explode, without letting too much air in which will cause the mixture to go mouldy. Just releasing the clip ¬†twice a day without opening the lid achieves this perfectly.

After a couple of weeks, or when the mixture calms down put it in a dark warm place to ferment further, I usually leave it until I need to use it, minimum 3 months, and then strain into a spray bottle

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Although this is called “Enzyme” cleaner, there are probably no enzymes in it al all (Wendy Howard gives a good account of this on her blog ‘permacultureinportugal’) but it’s likely that the fermentation produces an ¬†alcohol based solution, in any event, it makes a wonderful, non-toxic cleaner for just about everything, and it smells great.

I’ll going to add a few drops of tea tree oil and lemon eucalyptus oil to the next batch and use it spray the animal housing to deter flies and mites.

 

Oranges are not the only fruit!

Another fruit that is abundant at this time of year in Portugal is the lemon. We don’t have any trees producing fruit yet but our neighbour, Augusto, has 2 huge trees and he stops by once a week with a bag of lemons for us. Last week the bag weighed at least 5 kilos, and we still had loads left from the previous week.
So today I zested and juiced half of them. The zest is in the freezer, to be used in cakes and desserts when needed. The juice has been made into a simple lemon sorbet, really easy to make, 1.5 cups of water, 2 cups of sugar, 2 tablespoon of zest, 2 cups of lemon juice. Boil the sugar, water and zest until the sugar has dissolved (takes a couple of minutes). Wait for that to cool and pour in the lemon juice.

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If you have an ice-cream maker, pour the mixture into that and follow the makers instructions, if not, put it into a large plastic or metal container that has a lid and put it in the freezer. Stir the mixture every 30 minutes till it’s completely frozen, or if you’re away from the house, Wait for it to freeze and then whizz it up in the food processor for a couple of minutes and put it back in the freezer until you want to eat it, simple!

I also sliced a few lemons to freeze for popping into drinks, just freeze on an open tray and store in a ziplock bag

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Tomorrow, lemon curd!

Candied/crystallised Peel

February is the season for oranges in the UAE – 7 dirhams for 3 kgs at the farmer’s market, that’s just under EUR 0.5 per kg. So today I made marmalade. Although technically marmalade should be made with bitter Seville oranges, any citrus fruit will do. I leave the pith on my fruit, essentially because I don’t have the time or patience to de-pith kilos of fruit, but also because it imparts a slightly bitter flavour. I used 2 kgs of oranges (8 fruits), I thinly sliced 4 and peeled and chopped the other 4, adding just the flesh to the marmalade. I squeezed the juice from 2 lemons and added that to the pan, marmalade underway- but what to dowith the leftover peel……?

I’d read that crystallised peel was easy to make, so thought I’d give it a try, and easy it was! Being lazy I threw the peels into a pan of water as they were and brought to the boil for 10 minutes. I drained, refilled and did the same again, so total of 20 minutes boiling ( I poured the 2nd lot of water into the marmalade for extra flavour!) and then drained in a colander. When they were cool enough to handle I scraped the leftover flesh and pith off the lemon peels and then sliced all the peels into thinnish strips. Much easier to do when soft.

I made a syrup of 4 cups of water and 2 cups of raw sugar and boiled for a couple of minutes before adding the peels ( see photo below) and boiled for 45 minutes.

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45 minutes later the peel was translucent and the syrup had almost been absorbed. The peels were drained, rolled in sugar and put on a rack to dry. Some recipes recommend drying in the oven at 200F but my oven doesn’t go that low, so my peels are drying overnight at room temperature, and they taste amazing. However next time I won’t bother with the additional suger coating, they are already sweet enough. These should keep for about a month in an airtight container, or several months in the freezer.

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Update 8th May

the peel had mould growing on it after 3 weeks of being in an airtight jar on the kitchen shelf, so will definitely keep them in the freezer in future

Food Forest in the Desert

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Not only do vegetables grow quickly here, so do trees. The banana plants in the photo above were planted a year ago and have doubled in size since. They’ve only produced one bunch of very small bananas on one plant so far, which means their energy has been concentrated into vegetative growth.

We have 5 mango trees in the garden that were planted 4 years ago, so they should be flowering this year. We’ve cut them right back to ‘shock’ them into flowering, and also to let some sunlight reach the plants growing below them, fingers crossed we get some mangos. They don’t look so great (aesthetically) right now because of the hard pruning, so I’ll post a photo when they are in full bloom.

The orange and lemon trees flowered well last winter, their first year after planting, and then had severe bud fall due to 3 days of unprecedented bad weather in April. We eventually picked one lemon, someone else helped themselves to the single surviving orange! Let’s hope we have better luck this year.

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The pomegranate tree above was planted last year and has about 50 small fruits already, so looking forward to eating some of those.

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The fig tree that was planted last winter is laden with fruit, literally hundreds. This isn’t the best photo but I was trying to also capture the papaya tree in the background, it can just be seen in the top middle section of the photo. We’ve had little success with papaya trees so far, they wilt and die after a few months, they are either too shaded or too exposed, so this one, planted in the middle of the fig and palm trees, and shaded from the mid day sun by the damas trees in the background, is doing really well. We need to plant some others near by and in similar conditions as they are not self pollinating.

The plan is to under-plant all of these trees with edible shrubs, perennials and herbs, hence the title of the post. We planted aubergines around the base of some of the palm trees last year and they survived the intense summer sun, we’re doing the same with peppers and tomatoes this year. I’d like to plant some berry bushes and strawberries in the next month or so, and some self seeding plants such as amaranth.