May 31 marked my sixth anniversary of making soaps! To celebrate, I went out and gathered a bunch of violet leaves to turn into soap. I love bringing these worlds of wild plants and hand made soap together. The heart shape of the leaves also gave me a smile and felt really appropriate.
I made sure to pluck only a leaf or two from each individual plant, and to include the stems. Any time you forage, it's a good rule to space out what you take so you aren't doing harm to your wild plant friends, or depriving wildlife from resources.
The purple violet, Viola sororia, also called the common blue violet, meadow violet, or woods violet is a perennial plant native to eastern North America. Like many herbal allies, this beautiful and helpful plant pops up in disturbed ground and around borders, so it's a common sight in lawns and previously cleared land. Violets like damp ground and shade, so they grow in woodlands as well. I'm lucky enough to have them in abundance here both in the forest and growing in our eco-turf style yard. This plant is easily identified when it flowers, although the leaves continue to grow throughout the summer season long after their blooming time has passed.
Much like the growing conditions they prefer, violets are known for having moisturizing and cooling properties. They have a long tradition of being used medicinally in the Americas and Europe. One thing that makes them special is the high amount of mucilage their leaves and stems contain. Mucilage is the gelatinous substance of various plants that contains protein and polysaccharides and is similar to plant gums. Basically it's the gooey fluid content, and why I like to include violet stems in my gathering since they have the highest moisture and so the most of this viscous fluid inside. This mucilage is the part of the plant that makes it useful as a demulcent ingredient. Great for salves and in soap.
After cleaning and chopping the leaves and stems, I put them in a mason jar, covered them with oil, and set that into a pot of hot water on the stove to simmer on a low heat for 4 to 6 hours. This is the fast infusion method, using heat to help extract from plants, and the best method for plants where the juicy content is what you're after. *Please note any time you create an infusion this way, it is for immediate use. Oils with fresh plant material can not be stored since the moisture content from fresh plant materials will cause the oil to spoil. If you want a shelf stable infusion or one to use with something like a salve, you must fully dry your botanicals first to avoid introducing water into your oils. Since this oil is destined for soap, that moisture will go through the saponification process along with the rest of our oils and fluids and end up as soap so for this application this method is a perfect fit.
After the infusion time is up, I strain out the plant material, and the results are a beautifully dark and fragrant oil. This batch really had a high plant to oil ratio going so the color ended up even deeper than I anticipated. Quite lovely!
Here it is after the addition of all the other oils in my soap recipe. Still a strong green.
However this natural color is unlikely to survive saponification as the same pretty hue. Most botanicals will brown, fade, or morph. So I added just a little bit of Green Oxide to help preserve a green end result in the finished soap.
Making soap! Here you can see the green already fading as the sodium hydroxide solution begins to react with the oils...
This soap batter was tricky to get to trace. I find that often happens when I use a high percentage of an infused oil with a plant like this or something like myrrh. It slows the emulsion and I have to work a little more to get the soap to trace. But once this batch got there it looked gorgeous.
Here's the finished soap topped with a bit of violet sea salt.
I hope you enjoyed this little wildcrafted soap making. This soap is scented in Violet Bouquet and will be available in the shop after the standard six week curing time. Thanks for reading! And a huge, heartfelt thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged my soap making journey these past six years!