Pursuing Zero Food Waste: Lemons
Here at The Crooked Carrot, we’re always doing what we can to reduce our food waste. After all, food waste squanders more than just food. The water and energy used to produce that food is also wasted, on top of the money you spent to buy it in the first place.
So how can someone reduce their food waste? Easy, don’t let any part of the food go to waste!
Okay, so it’s not super easy, but it is simple. By getting creative and challenging our beliefs about how we can use our food, we can reduce food waste and save money while we’re at it. Because who doesn’t want to find ways to save their hard-earned money??
Using every part of your food doesn’t mean juicing the same lemon over.. and over.. to find some hidden pocket of sour liquid… But it does mean making a point to find new ways to repurpose your food scraps.
We love finding new ways to reduce our food waste by getting creative with our food scraps! We also love sharing our food waste strategies, so you can try them for yourself. Watch for more zero food waste posts in the future from The Crooked Carrot 🙂
Hi there! Below you’ll find affiliate links to some great products that we enjoy using in our own kitchen.
First up, Lemons
Lemons, that old familiar fruit providing sour flavors, aromatic scents, and a vibrant color that’s great for photography! 🙂
Lemons can’t grow just anywhere. They’re fairly picky about their environment, which limits their climatic range. Lemons grow best in warmer climates, like areas such as California, Italy, and Florida.
Although lemons can potentially be harvested year-round, the peak harvesting season occurs from late winter to early summer. Want to know what’s in season in your area?
Check out this great Seasonal Food Guide!
The Health Benefits of Lemons
Real food provides real health benefits. Lemons are a great source of nutrients like vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer.
Vitamin C may help to:
- Lower stroke & cancer risks
- Support skin health
- Increase iron absorption
- Boost the immune system
Speaking of an immune boost…naturally soothe that cough or cold with the power of lemons. Juice a whole lemon into a glass of water, heat it up, add some honey, and voila! A warm and soothing beverage.
I have a good friend who also swears by eating the lemon (slice by slice, as tolerated) to help when you’re sick, especially if you’ve lost your voice. The juice certainly has nutritional benefits like vitamin C, but the zest and pith have an even higher concentration of nutrients.
Citrus fruits like lemons contain flavones, which have been found to have anticancer, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. And the peels of citrus fruits are reported to hold the highest amount of flavones. So eat up those lemons!
How to buy and store lemons
When purchasing, look for lemons that feel heavy for their size. The lemon should be firm, the skin should be bright yellow without scars or wrinkles. Give the lemon a gentle squeeze, if it gives little, then it should be ready to use, as it has a thinner pith.
Store on the countertop for up to 10 days, or store in the fridge for longer lasting lemons. People say they last even longer in a plastic bag in the fridge, but we can do better… Have you tried reusable silicone bags?
Make sure to remove lemons from the fridge and leave at room temperature before juicing. You can also juice and zest them ahead of time and store the juice/zest in the fridge or freezer for later use.
Zest, Juice, Seeds, and Peels
Using the whole lemon is all about planning ahead. Below you’ll find the different ways we use every part of our lemons.
The zest is what adds lemon flavor to your food. Now I’m thinking back to all the zest I’ve left on the lemon after juicing. I’m sad to say I missed out on all that awesome lemon flavor! Don’t miss this opportunity to reduce your food waste and get that great lemon flavor. More flavor and less waste – it’s a win-win!
Let’s talk zesting. You don’t need any fancy tools to zest. A peeler, cutting board, and knife will work just fine. But a microplane zester does make the job a whole lot easier. We love our microplane zester, which also works great for ginger and garlic. This is one of those tools that I wasn’t sure how often I’d use, but I literally use it several times per week, or more. Definitely worth it.
Now, if you’re making a recipe that calls for lemon juice, before you juice those lemons, zest them! Personally, we find it much easier to zest a lemon while whole, rather than trying to zest the already-squeezed halves.
Save your lemon zest in a container and refrigerate or freeze for future use. Next time your cooking adventures call for lemon zest, you’ll already be one step ahead of the recipe, and actively reducing your food waste by using up every last bit of your lemons.
Use the lemon zest in a delicious recipe like these Lemon Dutch Baby Pancakes.
Now on to the juice!
Lemon juice adds citrus flavor, and it’s great for dressings. Squeeze over food for that fresh citrus flavor. Try over veggies like broccoli and asparagus, give salmon a burst of citrus by adding lemon juice just before serving. Squeeze over salad greens, or use in marinades for chicken and other proteins.
A juicer is an essential tool in our house to get every last drop of that fresh lemon juice. A compact juicer is great for travels. We just purchased this handheld press juicer, which calls for an extra dash of hand strength to press your lemons, but it works so well.
Though I wouldn’t recommend eating them, if you live in a lemon-friendly climate (or have a greenhouse!), then plant the seeds and grow your own lemons. Growing your own food certainly reduces the external costs of growing and transportation.
Now, what to do with the peels of a fully zested and juiced lemon?
Make a 2-ingredient homemade cleaner! Add the lemon peels to a large glass container, such as a mason jar (we always have a few lying around – really just a few, not hundreds, I swear…) and fill with white vinegar. Boom, a 2-ingredient homemade cleaner that actually works.
Simply dilute the lemon vinegar with water, put it in a glass spray bottle, and you’ve got yourself an easy homemade all-purpose cleaner. This is the cleaner we use at home because it’s entirely natural and not loaded with unnecessary chemicals that I don’t really want near the food I eat.
You don’t actually need lemon peels to make this cleaner – a simple vinegar and water mixture also works great. But the lemon peels add a fresh scent that’s more pleasant than plain old vinegar.
Note: this cleaner shouldn’t be used on granite or marble countertops, because the acidity can impact the finish.
The Lemon: An Unexpected Journey
Want even more ideas for using up your lemons? Check out some ideas below!
- Make preserved lemons
- Dry the lemon peel and grind it to make lemon pepper or lemon sugar
- Add strips of lemon zest to tea (or the whole slice)
- Flavor carbonated water or regular water with juiced lemons
- Add the zest and/or juice to a cocktail
- Make candied lemon peel
- Deodorize your garbage disposal
- Clean a dirty sink with a lemon half and salt
- Use to whiten clothes, clean the microwave, sanitize cutting boards, or remove coffee stains from your coffee cup
And at the end of the lemon life cycle, the best final action is compost.
Pursuing Zero Food Waste: Lemons
By no means is this a comprehensive list of every possibility for using all parts of this wonderful fruit. And we certainly aren’t perfect at using up the whole lemon. I still find myself with lemon halves gone bad. But hopefully we gave you some great ideas to put another notch in your zero food waste belt!
Do you have your own ingenious way of reusing lemons? Let us know 🙂 we’d love to hear about your ideas!
So how about it? How do you use the odds and ends of your lemons?
Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that should you purchase something through the link, The Crooked Carrot will receive a small commission. The item cost remains the same regardless of whether you purchase through our link or not. Any commission earned simply helps us continue to provide all our great content to you. From seasonal recipes to simple nutrition insights & sustainable zero waste tips, we have lots more to give!