I’ve been sick, really.
I don’t remember if I did this when I was a child or if others did it to me, but, the memory is there of orange peel being squeezed in my face and of feeling the light, stinging spray of citric acid -my first introduction to citrus zest.
Zest is a great word meaning to enjoy something keenly, with relish, and also a pleasant flavor or exciting quality – that is why it is applied to the outer peel of citrus fruits. The white part beneath, called the pith, is often bitter but the outer peel or flavedo is full of flavor and is used in many ways.
You might find it in orange marmalade, lemon flavored baked goods. I like to keep a lemon in my freezer for recipes calling for lemon zest. A fine grater or special zesting tool can be used to cut the peel. It is often used as a garnish too because of its bright color and full flavor.
Another use, and one of my favorites, is in citrus essential oils. Here is your trivia for the day; when cold pressed, it requires 3,000 lemons to produce a kilo of lemon essential oil. The chemical constituents in this oil, the list is too long to include, have anticancer, antidepressant, antiseptic, antifungal, antioxidant, antiviral, astringent, invigorating, refreshing and tonic properties. All of which might make you think that we should be eating the peeling, not just the lemon. It works for me to put a few drops of the oil in my glass of water.
The next time a server in a restaurant asks you if you would like a slice of lemon in your water or other drink, you might have a good reason to say “yes, please”. Just sayin’…