Citrus Zest

Image: An Organic Conversation

Image: An Organic Conversation

It’s Citrus Time.

All sorts of beautiful yellows, oranges, and reds fill the market.

And, very likely, much of those vibrant colors are later seen in your compost bin.

Might there be another way to preserve all of that gorgeous color and flavor?

I’m glad you asked. It’s time to get zesting.

The outermost layer of citrus is the zest. Not only is it colorful, but because the zest is where the citrus oils reside, its fragrant and imparts bright bursts of flavor in food.

You can use citrus zest like any other spice or herb with these tips:

1. Before cutting or peeling, rinse and dry well.

2. Roll the citrus on a hard surface to release more of the oils into the skin.

3. Holding the citrus in one hand, use a zester/microplane/rasp in your other hand to gently scrape the top most layer of citrus zest with light pressure. You only want the colorful threads from the top. The white layer beneath the zest is the pith which is bitter.

4. Allow the zest to collect on the underside of the microplane, tapping onto a clean dish towel or paper towel as necessary.

5. Once all of the zest has been removed and transfer to a towel, press lightly to remove moisture and distribute evenly.

6. Allow to sit dry on the towel until all moisture is gone, about 24 hours.

7. Transfer to a spice jar and store for a few weeks or, to store longer, combine with either sugar or salt to preserve.

8. Because zest is the most exposed part of citrus, it’s best to buy organic.

Use the zest to add flavor to baked goods, pasta and risotto, vinaigrettes, sauces, rimmed glasses (link to edamame), herb salts, and much more.

Take advantage of this easy and inexpensive access to flavor while the season is at its peak! Experiment with lemon and lime, Meyer lemon, orange, grapefruit, tangerine – whatever you can get your hands on.

And since you’re concentrating citrus’ exterior in this seasoning – the area most exposed to pesticides – buy organic as often as possible.

Eager to hear what you make with your citrus zest. Write us below.

Image: An Organic Conversation

Image: An Organic Conversation


Image: An Organic Conversation

Image: An Organic Conversation



  1. Leslie

    I have a prolific lemon tree so, when I harvest the lemons, I both zest and squeeze them. I store the zest in one cup canning jars and freeze it so it lasts till the next harvest. Then can use anytime!

  2. Monica Padrnos

    Worms don’t like citrus, so all peels and fruits of citrus fruits should not be put in your compost pile if you like worms. Put them in the green bin, or did them in a part of your garden where you don’t mind not having worms.

  • (will not be published)