I’m not sure what it is about this hobby (or maybe it’s just me), but people always assume I have a green thumb (people who have never seen my yard, at least). With the utmost faith in my ability to nurture and create they assume I have an abundant vegetable garden and overflowing planters of cheery blossoms. Unfortunately for me, they are very wrong. Now, some of this is for lack of trying—I’ve never actually tried a vegetable garden, and I’m completely satisfied to let whatever perennials pop up in my flowerbeds be my entire flower collection. Herbs, however, are a thing I have tried. In particular, basil. I cannot keep the stuff alive in Calgary. When I lived in Toronto I easily kept a basil plant alive in a water bottle on my windowsill, but here—not a chance, and it breaks my heart. Basil is my all-time favourite fresh herb, but it wilts quickly when bought at the market and dies with rather disheartening determination whenever I try to grow it. I’m always so envious of people who lament having “too much” basil—as if there was such a thing! This is where a fantastic bit of technology has saved my basil loving ways—the Click and Grow.
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Click and Grow is basically a fool proof counter-top greenhouse. You add water, pop in your little seed and soil capsules, plug it in, and wait. It didn’t take long at all for little green bits to start poking up, and from there leaves started to unfurl, and within a couple weeks I had some fully fledged basil plants! All I had to do was take off the little quick-start greenhouse caps after the first couple days and occasionally add more water to the reservoir. I even went on vacation for a week and they just kept right on growing!
I’m pretty enamored with basil, but they also have dozens of other plants you can grow—everything from lettuce to chives to chili peppers to a spruce tree! Once the soil starts getting tired you can transplant the plant outside (definitely the thing to do with the spruce tree!), or pop the capsule contents in the compost and start a new one. They just dropped the prices of their capsules, too, making them on-par with buying a bundle of herbs at the market—but much longer lasting!
Click and Grow did send me their Smart Garden in exchange for a review, but left me to write the review all on my own.
Now that I’ve finally succeeded growing some basil, I decided to celebrate with a Lemon Basil Soap. I purchased a bottle of basil essential oil ages ago, and I know it was inexpensive because I bought 100mL of it without having much of an idea of what it was like (15mL = $4.02, 100mL = $5.87). Once I had it, though, I found I was at a bit of a loss for what to do with it. It definitely smells nice—sweet and herbal—I just wasn’t feeling terribly inspired. Until now! Lemon and basil seemed like a brilliant combination—it’s common in Italian food, but it also makes a great essential oil blend that’s lovely in a bar of soap (I’m not sure I’d like a soap that smelled like fettuccine alfredo, but who knows!). There are bright, fresh top notes from the lemon, and some sweetness and herbal base notes from the basil. It’s lovely.
Soap is one of the few DIYs we can safely incorporate fresh food into, but even then we have to keep in mind that we can’t use an unlimited amount of it, and it tends to turn funny (sad) colours. Mostly variations of brown. The high pH of the lye solution annihilates a lot of things—this is a huge part of why we can use fresh herbs in soap, but this is also the reason those fresh herbs don’t come remotely close to keeping their original colours.
I opted for a bit of a swirly layered look, with two colours. One part of the batter was tinted a dusty green using French green clay, while the other had some fresh basil leaves and brown rhassoul clay blended into it, which was a rather lovely green at the time of pouring, but went brown during saponification. I poured them in alternating layers, with some haphazard zig-zagging. The weight of the layers also caused some inter-mixing; you’ll definitely want to watch the video the get a better idea of what I did. You could also do a pot swirl if you’re so inclined, or really anything else! You’ve got two shades and some textural contrast to play with 🙂
The final bars smell lovely; bright and fresh, and not at all food-like. It’s a semi-savory scent, but savory in the sense of an herb garden as opposed to a flower garden, not spaghetti sauce instead of cookies. I love how fresh it is, and that I can’t quite pin down the scent notes—they fuse beautifully into a finished blend that is more than the sum of its parts, and I just love it when that happens. Anyhow—let’s make some Lemon Basil Soap!
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Lemon Basil Soap
Calculate to 5% superfat
Per 500g fats:
- 15g | 0.53oz lemon essential oil
- 7g | 0.25oz basil essential oil
- 10g | 2 tbsp French green clay
- 6 to 8 Fresh basil leaves
- 8g | 1 tbsp rhassoul clay
Kick things off by calculating out your recipe for the amount of soap you’re making to get the finite amounts of the fats, lye, and water. Unsure about how to use SoapCalc? I made a video to walk you through it! Please ensure you’re familiar with standard soap making procedure before diving in.
Prepare your mould—you’ll want a loaf mould for this soap. Melt your oils together in your soaping pot, and have a container with a pouring spout handy (I use these awesome funnel pitchers). Let your oils cool to room temperature. Mix up your lye water (I used a 1L mason jar, giving me an easy cover for the cooling time) and let that cool to room temperature as well (you can use ice for part of your water to speed up the cooling process).
While everything is cooling, weigh out your essential oils, and measure out the clays. Pick the basil leaves, rinse them, and gently pat them dry. Set everything out so you have an organized work space.
Once the melted fats and lye water are at room temperature, follow standard soap making procedure to bring them to trace. Once you have a relatively thin trace, blend in the essential oils.
Now it’s time to divide up our batter! Weigh out about 25% of it into your second pitcher. Add the French green clay to the larger portion of the batter, and blend the rhassoul clay and fresh basil leaves into the smaller portion of the batter.
Pour the batters into your mold in alternating order, zig-zagging as you go. The weight of the next layer of the batter will cause some mixing; that’s ok. Once you get to the top, finish with the French green clay batter, and do some gentle scoopy swirls to bring up a bit of the basil batter. Leave to saponify for 24–48 hours. Remove from the mould and slice, and then leave to age for at least three weeks before using. Enjoy!