wax on wax off – de-waxing citrus fruit and embracing zest

As a Brit I still cannot get over the thrill of being able to wander outside and pick a lemon, orange of grapefruit off a tree in my California garden.  The problem is that once my tree is bare, and my friends have also handed over their spare fruit I really struggle with paying for citrus.  Call me a cheapskate, I don’t care.  What I also miss is the fact that all my homegrown stuff is pure, organic and fresh – and it doesn’t have wax on.

Citrus fruit has wax applied to help prolong the shelf life, reduce the fruit drying out and to make it look shiny and pretty. Citrus has a naturally waxy coating when it is fresh off the tree. However, when it is being sold commercially, the fruit is washed, so the natural wax comes off.  And then the producer applies a natural wax such as beeswax (not so bad) or a petroleum-based wax (shudder).

You can buy un-waxed fruit, but some shops don’t always have it.  So, all you need to do is throw your citrus in a bowl of very hot water, leave it for 5 minutes then give it a gentle rub with a brush or cloth.  You’ll see the wax floating in the water and your fruit will be naked and ready to cook with.  A word of warning, un-waxed fruit doesn’t last as long as when it has the wax coating.  So keep it in the fridge and use it within a few days.  Bring it out of the fridge a while before you use it as you’ll get more juice from room temperature fruit.

If you don’t use citrus zest please start.  I find that most cookbooks don’t tell you to use the zest, but often tell you to use just the juice of lemons, limes and oranges.  But the zest is the bit with the best with the most concentrated flavour. So if you’re going to go to the effort of paying for citrus, you may as well get your money’s worth.  If a recipe calls for the juice I always add the zest.  Simple.

Invest in a Microplane zester and you’ll be rewarded with an extra layer of loveliness and freshness in everything you make.