In ancient China, Chinese women used to hold mandarins in their hands so they would be scented with the essential oils. Slowly cut into an orange peel and you'll see why. As the oils seep out from the pores, you’ll find this smell is so much richer and more concentrated than from the inner fruit.
The next time you eat an orange, try to resist throwing away this peel and the white inner skin, the pith. It’s best to buy fruit that has had no pesticides used and always wash the peel before using. Here is what you can do with your oranges and mandarins, apart from just eating them.
1) Citrus fruits are packed with anti-oxidants, which help defend our bodies’ cells from damage and ultimately from ageing. The anti-oxidants found in the peel is 20 times more powerful than those in the juice.
Make use of orange peel by making a tea. Immerse the peel in hot water for about 10-15 minutes then drink. This can relieve digestive discomfort and is purportedly a cure for a hangover. And we know how bad we can look and feel if we’ve overdone the partying the night before. Anything that helps towards a speedy recovery is welcome.
2) The peel has had its own life in the kitchen for many years. It is full of vitamin C, B6, B5, calcium and beta-carotene which is converted in the liver to vitamin A.
Grate the peel and add to cakes, salads and smoothies.
Make your own orange or mandarin peel extract by soaking it in vodka. Here’s a straightforward recipe I found:
It also has a non-alcoholic version. Use the extract for cooking and baking.
3) Some people find the peel hard to digest. If this is the case, then the pith is your best friend. This white layer of skin between the fruit and peel is full of flavanoids which are anti-inflammatory. They help lower cholesterol, the bad LDL without lowering the good HDL.
4) The pith is a good source of fibre and highly concentrated in pectins, it will help to relieve diarrhoea.
5) The peel of the mandarin is used in Chinese medicine. Smaller than the orange, also known as tangerine, it is dried then stored. As it’s very easy to take the peel of the mandarin, you can make your own by drying it in a low oven. It can then be infused in hot water or added to soups. It helps to strengthen the liver and stomach.
6) Some people recommend the dried peel ground to a powder. This way it can be easily taken by the spoonful on a regular basis, again as a digestive aid as the peel helps to bring good bacteria to the gut.
7) The mandarin is more concentrated than the orange in flavanoids and a substance called hesperidin. These help to prevent some cancers, although they may not be an aid to those who already have cancer.
8) Hespiridin is particularly important to skin. Together with the vitamin C in the fruit, it helps to support healthy collagen. Collagen is the substance which makes our skin plump and keeps away the wrinkles. We lose collagen every year, so anything that will help in its formation is a blessing!
9) Hespiridin helps to maintain healthy capillaries and connective tissues and derivatives of this compound are being used in supplements for skin health, as well as eye gels and face creams.
(Photo from Food Network)
10) If you really want to eat the peel of orange but just can’t stand the taste or texture, you can make your own candied peel. It will be full of sugar, especially if you coat the candied peel in chocolate. The sweet result might even cancel out any benefits!
Here’s an easy recipe from Anna Olson:
11) LASTLY, this bit is not about orange but it is from the same citrus family. To cleanse your insides, lemon juice with water is a common body cleanser. Did you know you can also take off the peel, infuse it in a pot of hot water and you have refreshing and subtly sweet lemon tea! If you don’t mind the bitterness, take the pith with the peel as the pith is rich in flavanoids. Also, after removing the juice and the peel of the lemon, infuse what remains of the fruit in hot water, sweetened with honey. Nothing is wasted.