Saturday 11 May 2019

Citrus leaves

I've recently learned something super-cool: all citrus leaves are edible!

I've long known that kaffir lime leaves are edible (and widely used in Thai cuisine), but I'd assumed there was something special about them.  But no!  The essential oils that are present in the zest of citrus fruit are also in the leaves, so grapefruit leaves taste like grapefruit, lemon leaves like lemon etc.

You don't generally eat them as such: you infuse the flavour then discard the leaf, just like with bay leaves.  So you can pour boiling water over the leaves and drink them as tea; simmer in stews, curries or milky puddings; wrap meat in them before baking (apparently salmon wrapped in lemon leaves is super-yum) or even put a layer of leaves in the bottom of the pan when you're baking a cake and let the flavour infuse up through the batter.

I only learned this a few days ago, so all I've tried so far is grapefruit leaf tea (above).  It was a bit on the bitter side (neither the sweetness nor the sourness of the fruit is present in the leaves) but very pleasant with a little sugar added.  It will surprise no one to know I'm keen to try more!

If you'd like to learn more, there are a bunch of ideas for lemon leaves here and here, plus an article on orange leaves here.  That latter article includes a fascinating snippet: if you don't have the space for a citrus tree, save the seeds whenever you eat citrus and plant them thickly in small trays.  In very little time you'll have a thicket of intensely flavoured citrus seedlings - microgreens, if you will - ready to use in cooking.  We already have a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree but I'll definitely be trying that with orange or mandarin seeds some time!


  1. I wanted to let you know more information on grapefruit leaves.
    I have an awful skin condition along with scalp that the doctors are not able to
    I am a christian and the Lord gives me dreams quite often.
    Last nite I had a dream about eating grapefruit. At the end of the dream
    I saw 3 small leaves of the grapefruit tree.

    I am going to use your article to prepare the leaves.
    Great idea to plant the seeds for microgreens. Never thought of that.

    Thank you, Great Article
    For me this would only be grapefruit since there is so much healing in the

  2. Thanks a bunch, really enjoyed this knowledge. I've always been mischief with kitchen science and love experimenting with flavours of plants. I've heard in a lot of instances the leaves,root of alot of fruit, and vegetables, plants and flowers, are edible, they just take on a more subtle or stronger flavour depending on what the food is. Ginger leaves are light and nice in salads, yam leaves are edible, so are sweet potato leaves. Flowers and tendrils of courgettes, and pumpkins. These are all foods we overlook, but they're delicious and feel oh so exotic when you incorperate the right flavours. I've always had a deep desire to melt peoples faces when they taste my food. I hate average, and I always have. So the use of exotic plants and flowers foraged, brings a new dimension to my cooking and opens doors to exploring the palate in a ways unheard of. Orange leaves with burnt coconut and cinnamon mediterranean wood pigeon salad.