Newsletter: Waste not citrus

It’s that time of the year again when the citrus trees are full of fruit. The big question is, what to do with it all?

A reader from Northland, in a place well known for citrus growing, says they juice all of their surplus mandarins. The juice is sweet and delicious, and it freezes so well that the benefits extend far beyond the growing season.

For sour varieties of citrus, cordial may be the way to go. A mix of fruit juice, sugar, and water, there are lots of ways to go about making the concentrate that allow you to alter the ratio of sugar to suit your taste and the bitterness of the juice being used.

An oily ragger from Whangarei says they carefully planned their small citrus orchard so it provides a continual supply of oranges, mandarins, and tangelos, throughout the winter months. That was a few years ago and they are now seeing the benefits. “We planted oranges, mandarins and tangelos. We also have a grapefruit tree, a lemon tree and a lime tree which are cropping very heavily. The trees are easy care and we benefit from the fruit at a time when other things are out of season and right when we need the extra vitamin C.”

The oily ragger has so many limes that he would like to hear from others about ways to use them all. Perhaps you have a favourite lime marmalade, a special dessert that uses limes, or do you have a favoured lime-based dressing for salads or seafood? If you have some suggestions to share, please contact us through our website at

Those who have more fruit than they need can, of course, donate it to others. Maureen writes, “One of our local community centres has a food cart outside it. Anyone can drop off food such as grapefruit, lemons, baking, leftovers from local cafés etc and anyone can pick them up. When people leave something they put a post on the Neighbourly community FB page. Such an unselfish, helpful idea.”

Some oil raggers like to barter their homegrown fruit and vegetables with other like-minded individuals. How about this for an idea? A money-free home-growers market where back-yard grown produce is bagged in 2.50 trade dollars, 5 trade dollars and 10 trade dollars sized bags, and traded for other produce of an equivalent value. Best of all, surplus produce is exchanged for produce that is needed and no money changes hands – just bags of homegrown goodies.

Here are some tips for those wanting to grow their own citrus. Now is the time to plant. They grow best in a warm, sunny spot sheltered from strong winds. They don’t like wet feet, so make sure the soil is free draining – or if you have a heavier soil, then plant on a raised mound or on a hillside. Citrus like to be fed and love seaweed tonic. Make your own by placing washed seaweed in a sugar sack, which you then submerge in a barrel of water. After a few weeks you will be able to start drawing off seaweed soup concentrate. Dilute about five parts water to one part concentrate when watering the citrus. They also like potash, which for most oily raggers is provided from their wood burning fire. If the leaves of your citrus are yellowing then its most likely due to a nutrient deficiency.