The variety of citrus that is available is a testament to the abundance of the natural world – lime, lemon, bergamot, tangerine, yuzu, pomelo, Buddha's hand...the list goes on and on. Each fruit has a unique taste and, indeed, a unique aroma for us to enjoy.
Citrus Peel: A Boon for Flavor and Aroma
As you've probably learned by now if you enjoy cooking with citrus, the vast majority of the aroma is found in the outer part of the peel, or rind, which is why its important to include the zest of the fruit in dishes, rather than just the juice, to really give your dishes a burst of bright and sunny flavor and aroma.
What you may not realize is that the same flavorful essence found in the zest of citrus fruits is the source of the essential oils that we prize for their fresh, uplifting aroma. Indeed, every time you zest a lemon into a cake batter or add fresh lime zest to an Asian sauce, you are literally adding a very small amount of essential oil to your food. A word of caution, though: the amount of essential oil you actually consume when zesting a citrus fruit is small; conversely, distilled essential oils are highly concentrated, and we don't ever recommend taking essential oils from a bottle internally.
How Citrus Oils Are Distilled
Essential oils of citrus can be distilled in a variety of ways, but the two most common methods are cold pressing of the rind and steam distillation. While both methods yield a high quality product when done properly, citrus oils rendered from cold pressing may contain naturally-occurring constituents that make skin more sensitive to sunlight, so it's always important to read instructions for use and follow application guidelines. (At SunLeaf, we recommend diluting all essential oils in a conditioning carrier oil of your choice, such as avocado, coconut, or almond oil).
A Brief Guide to Citrus Oils
As mentioned previously, each citrus oil brings a unique aroma experience to the perfumer's palette – some essences are sharper and more 'green', while others are sweeter and more mellow. Here's a guide to some of the citrus essential oils we use in our Signature Aromas:
- BERGAMOT. Derived from Citrus bergamia, bergamot is said to be a cross between lemon and bitter orange. It has a sharp, sparkling aroma with green and floral undertones. It features prominently in our Amyris Bergamot Signature Aroma, where it is balanced by notes of woody amyris and zesty white grapefruit. Bergamot is also the primary flavoring agent in Earl Grey tea.
GRAPEFRUIT. Derived from Citrus × paradisi, just as there are several color varieties of grapefruit, so too, are there essential oils of white grapefruit, red grapefruit, and others. Grapefruit essential oil has a tart, sparkling aroma that lends itself well to cleaning applications. We use grapefruit essential oil, along with tea tree and lemon, to power our Fresh & Clean Kitchen Collection. When used on surfaces, it helps to remove residue and neutralize bacteria – naturally.
LEMON. Derived from Citrus limon, lemon is the tart, pucker-inducing fruit that lends itself well to both sweet and savory culinary applications. True to the fruit from which it is derived, lemon essential oil has a clean, sharp aroma. In our Lemon Vetiver Signature Aroma, it juxtaposes perfectly with earthy vetiver and aromatic lavender to provide a clarifying and uplifting aroma. We also offer Lemon as a Single-Note Essential Oil.
LIME. Most commonly derived from Citrus × latifolia (Persian lime), lime adds a zesty flavor to Latin and Asian dishes. The essential oil has a uniquely green aroma that blends well with floral and woody notes. Lime essential oil provides a sharp, bright opening note in our NEW Patchouli Lime Signature Aroma, where it is balanced with herbaceous marjoram, spicy black pepper, and woodsy patchouli for a unique and unexpected experience.
SWEET ORANGE. Derived from Citrus × sinensis, sweet orange comes from the same orange trees that we know and love for their deliciously honeyed edible fruit. It has a smooth, sweet aroma that blends well with many other essential oils. It features prominently in our Orange Ginger Signature Aroma, where it is rounded out with spicy notes of clove and ginger, plus refreshing lemongrass. We also offer Sweet Orange as a Single-Note Essential Oil.
A Burst of Sunshine, Anytime
Citrus oils are so much fun to use and enjoy – their bright, joyful aromas uplift the senses and can also be used to help purify your home. Varied and abundant, they blend well with a variety of other essential oils, from florals to wood and spice notes, lending a freshness that helps bring an aroma to life.
What are some of your favorite ways to use them?