On Saturday last the Red Toch garlic patch was showing sign that it was ready. The coloring in the leaves had dulled and almost all the plants had one or more leaves tinged with brown indicating die back. A plant here and there had slumped principal leaves despite adequate soil moisture.
I dug one, two and then three plants. The bulb size was not huge but adequate considering that the winter rains this year were about half normal. The outer wrappers were tight which is good. The coloring was less intense than Red Toch can be but its typical for garlic's coloring to vary with the season. It looked ready and I needed the 120 lineal feet of gardening space for tomato seedlings.
Red Toch is heirloom softneck garlic from the Republic of Georgia in the former Soviet Union. It is well known amongst garlic aficionados through the writings of Chester Aaron, a garlic enthusiast in Northern California. Its garlic flavor and heat level strike a balance on the palate as intense without being unpleasant. It really is good garlic.
I planted my Red Toch near the end of last October along with three other heirloom garlic varieties. Toch matures early but this year some of the other garlics are not far behind. The Inchelium is nearly there. The French Germinador just looks confused which I've learned in a sign that it will start browning up in a couple of weeks. The rare Asian garlic, Xian, however looks like it might grow right through June.
I'm grateful that the Red Toch is ready to harvest now. There is a satisfaction and pleasure that comes from harvesting plants that is hard to describe. I think it comes from being a part of a larger natural cycle of apparent beginnings and endings that isn't malicious or painful. That isn't a perspective we humans often experience in our lives. For us endings are painful and beginnings are celebrations tinged by doubt.
Around the time he wrote his famous "Funeral Blues" the Anglo-American poet W. H. Auden observed that "At the end of it all I am certain of only two things: Death. And that life goes on." I think that observation pretty much sums up the facts. Living is about fashioning those facts into an experience