Last week a reader, Rochelle asked if we made our dried oranges for our sensory basket. I bought the dried orange and lime as part of a natural discovery resource set. However, I really feel this should be easy enough to do at home, so we gave it ago. You can see our store bought dried lemon and lime in the top left picture here.
I bought a whole range of oranges, limes and lemons. With a sharp knife, I made eight cuts down the side of the fruit leaving half an inch or so from the top and from the bottom, to keep the fruit together. I needed to cut through all the white part of the fruit's skin so the fruit can dry out completely.
Then following a few loose online tutorials I put them on a tray and into our oven on the lowest heat which was 80°c. Overnight I turned the oven off but left the fruit inside.
Above is the fruit after around 36 hours in the oven. The tutorials I had read suggested leaving them in the oven for 24 hours but mine definitely were not dried by then. I tried another tray of fruit in the oven at a slightly higher temperature of 120°c but it quickly cooked the fruit and they all went really dark in color. So I believe the lower the temperature the better. I found it important to rotate the tray so the fruit dried evenly. Some of the fruit rolled onto its side but while checking the fruit I was able to stand it upright and kind of squish it into position. The lemons and lime also got a little sticky from the juice coming out of the fruit and onto the baking tray.
You want to check on them often as the lemons and limes will dry out quicker than the oranges. Ours aren't as perfect as the store bought ones but they work just as well. They smell wonderful and I love the way they look too, really rustic. Mine are a little darker than the store bought ones (and the lemons might continue to brown) but some stores add preservatives to theirs. As I made so many I've placed them in the kitchen and now the kitchen smells good too. I think they are perfect for a natural discovery or sensory basket.
Above is a DIY sensory basket with some coconut shell (it still smells like coconut), cinnamon sticks and a dried orange. All of these look feel and smell really deep, earthy, and natural!