Is it Safe to Eat ‘Urban Produce?’

If you’re lucky enough to have a fruit tree in your backyard, why not take advantage of it? This might seem obvious, but I see so many ripe citrus fruits wasting away on trees in my neighborhood and I couldn’t understand why.

Our backyard came with huge orange tree, but we added a lemon tree as well. The oranges that grow on it are really sweet and juicy – they’re not great for eating but they are perfect for juicing.


I was talking to my neighbor who has even more fruit trees, including a pomegranate and avocado tree. I asked her if she didn’t like fruit because she never picked any, and she told me she was scared that the fruit was toxic because the trees were rooted in a neighborhood within a few blocks of a gas station.

Luckily, according to research, the bad stuff stays in the soil.

Christina Boyes of Food Safety, Urban Agriculture states “The way that different plants absorb contaminants is still being studied, but roots and tubers usually have the highest lead and arsenic concentrations, followed by leafy greens like spinach and mustard. Fruits and seeds, on the other hand, are literally at the other end of the plant and tend to have the lowest likelihood of contamination.”

In other words, city tree fruit = good, city potatoes = not quite so good.

Moreover, the Wellesley Research Group found that unpeeled fruits had higher levels of metals than peeled fruits, “as a result of soil, dust, and air pollution.”

So to be safe, I gave my oranges a good rinse before I slice them in half and juice them. It takes about 3 oranges to make a cup of orange juice. I never add sugar or any other ingredients. It’s sweet and delicious and doesn’t come from concentrate like the orange syrup packets they use to make commercial orange juice.

And don’t throw out those citrus peels!

Add then to your vinegar based cleaning solutions for a nice citrusy scent!

Also, lemon peels dipped in salt make excellent stain-removers for copper pots, wood, or marble! Lemon peels also make an effective oven cleaner, sprinkle some baking soda on tough oven stains and wipe with a lemon peel, rinse with a 50:50 solution of white vinegar and water.

They can be made into delicious citrus peel candy!

Candied Citrus Peel Recipe:
  • 1 cup of orange peel, cut into thin slices, ribbons, or curls
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (find in bulk aisle, or packaged in paper!)
  • 1/4 cup of tap water, plus 4-5 extra cups for cooking peels.


  1. Place orange peels in a medium sauce pan and pour in just enough water to cover the peels. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Cook over high heat for ten minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for another ten minutes. Drain. Repeat this process two more times. (Save this water and add to your vinegar cleaning solution for a citrus scent!) 
  2. In a separate saucepan, heat sugar and 1/4 cup water over high heat until boiling. Pour in the orange peels and reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove peel with slotted spoon and dry on wire rack overnight. Store in airtight container. They can last for over a month in the fridge. 




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