Orange Peel – the Cinderella of Foodstuffs
. . . with thanks to my good friend and ally in the political struggle, Andreas Schmidt.
Just like Cinderella, orange peel is one of those things that, once you’ve discovered their true worth, you won’t be able to live without. Orange peel is a food superstar that came from the shadows, overlooked and underappreciated. But no more!
What do the Turkish Rivera, German Christmas food, an aromatic scent in your kitchen, your next BBQ, as well as ways to brighten your skin and, maybe, even to lower bad cholesterol and fight depression have in common? You guessed it, orange peel! Orange peel, a food by-product really; because, after all, we usually just peel our oranges or tangerines, eat the flesh of our grapefruits, squeeze the juice out of our lemons and discard the skins without second thought. Well, this has to stop! Orange peel is a treasure, and not something for the trash can.
A sun-soaked little helper
Orange trees in Antalya
When you think of citrus fruits, you inevitably think of the sun, the sea and holiday. Because, after all, where do most of these little delicacies come from? Sun-soaked places, of course: Spain, Italy, Greece Florida and Turkey to name but a few! Turkey, in fact, is not only one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, but also one of the global players in the citrus fruit market. Grapefruits and, now even, Kiwis from the Mersin and Adana regions. Oranges from Antalya and the world-famous Bodrum tangerines. All of them chock-full with the energy of the Mediterranean sun that kisses the shores of Asia Minor for over 300 days per year. And it’s this sun which powers up our little friends with vitamins, and minerals, gives them taste and makes them an unmissable addition to any healthy diet.
But after we’ve let our palates savour the sweet aroma of that plum and juicy orange or have added zest to our salads by sprinkling them wish freshly squeezed lemon juice, what do we do with the skin protecting our little helpers? One thing, we certainly shouldn’t do, is to throw them out. And here is why:
Combine them with other things to create an explosion of flavours.
What is German Christmas famous for? Well, snow, fairy tales, the Christmas tree, markets, gingerbread and that weird but wonderful hot mulled wine they drink while standing around outside tables in sub-zero temperatures. But did you know that the last two things wouldn’t be half as tasty without the help of orange peel? The age-old recipe for German gingerbread, known as ‘Lebkuchen’, doesn’t contain even a trace of ginger but lots of candied orange peel. It’s added to offset the pungent flavour of the cocktail of spices that is used to make these delicacies with a zesty, yet sweet note. And the same is true for the hot mulled wine, aka ‘Glühwein’ – literally ‘glowing wine’ – which is drunk by Germans around Christmas time: a variety of choice red wines is reinforced with spices ranging from cinnamon and cloves to ginger. Then this mixture is heated slowly with the addition of lemon or orange zest. Some like the taste of it, others disagree, but one thing is for sure: it smells like heaven! And smells lead us to yet another use of orange peel.
The smell of a citrus grove in your home
Sometimes that kitchen or bathroom just has this weird, unidentifiable smell which doesn’t go away however much we scrub the floor and wipe down the kitchen cabinets with our supermarket-bought cleaning products. But help is at hand, and it’s completely organic: vinegar infused with orange peel! It’s true vinegar by itself often has an uncomfortable smell, even though it is a potent cleaning and anti-bacterial agent. Infusing orange peel with vinegar makes the unwanted smelliness of it vanish in a heartbeat and what is left, is an organic cleaning product that smells like a citrus grove in Tuscany, Italy, or Bodrum, Turkey. By the way, the same is true if you add orange or any other citrus peel to
your trash can or rubbish chute. No more embarrassing odours, just the sweet scent of oranges, tangerines and lemons!
Which might also be an interesting addition to your meat at your next BBQ.
A citric fire starter
Just look at that! You can probably smoke them too, I wouldn’t be surprised.
You want to preserve those trees (you might even live in one of those country where trees are usually only found in shopping malls), but still want to get a real BBQ – and not one of those electric or gas- fired ones – going? No problems, simply buy some traditional charcoal and dry that orange peel you have left over from your last attempts to live a healthy lifestyle. Dried orange or any other citric peel works perfectly as a fire starter for your BBQ – no petrochemicals needed – and they add that special aroma to the smoke that marinates your meat. And, hey, you’re burning the peel of citrus fruits. That must mean you are adding vitamins to your greasy fix – who says, you aren’t living healthily!
Speaking of health…
Orange peel has been shown to have some serious health benefits
More than one serious scientific study has shown that using orange peel in cosmetic or medical products can bring significant benefits. Cleopatra is believed not only to have bathed in donkey milk, but to also have used orange peel as a skin scrub. And who would argue with the Queen of Egypt? Traditional Chinese medicine has also long since used orange peel as a drug of choice to fight off viral infections and to combat digestive problems. More recent experiences have shown orange peel to aid the lowering of bad cholesterol. And therapist rely on the scent of citric fruit in the treatment of their patients with depression, especially those with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
All in all, not a bad performance for a mere food by-product. A Cinderella-food if ever there was one. And I am certain that you will look differently at orange peel from now on!