Tomatoes in Winter


Polka Dot Hen Produce fresh produce Wiarton Farmers' Market
Fresh tomatoes from Polka Dot Hen Produce destined for the Wiarton Farmers’ Market

Looking at this picture of our fresh tomatoes almost hurts at this time of year.

It is February, and outside the wind is whipping the trees mercilessly. The second thaw of the winter has reduced the snow pack, but it’s going to be a long time until these beauties are on my plate again.

I’m doing what I can to set the stage for their return.

Almost with mouth watering, I’m planning this year’s tomato selections.  The seed catalogues are arrayed around me on the desk as I create my short list.

Deciding for or against a variety is based on several observations over the season. Then, the task every autumn is to review how each tomato variety performed overall. This is crucial,  because right now, there needs to be a balance between the dreams espoused by those glossy seed catalogues and reality.

Back to my plate, today.

There is a little good news stored in the freezer. While the tomato production this autumn was outpacing market sales and our own consumption, I took the time to put up some of the goodness for a time such as this.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

These take time to make, but don’t need to be tended constantly. The recipe is pretty loose; once you make a batch, you’ll get the hang of it.

Start by slicing your tomatoes and placing them on a parchment-lined baking tray, sliced side up.

sliced tomatoes Polka Dot Hen Produce
Sliced tomatoes ready for roasting on parchment-lined baking trays

Now you have a choice to make. Do you want simple roasted tomatoes or do you want to fancy them up?

sliced tomatoes Polka Dot Hen Produce
Ready to roast. Now for a drizzle of olive oil.

For simple, delicious goodness, simply drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil. For fancier fare, drizzle the tomatoes not only with olive oil, but also with balsamic vinegar.  Pinches of salt and pepper, or thinly sliced garlic are tasty additions.

Roast at 350F until the tomatoes start to shrivel. Now lower the temp in the oven and continue to cook them. The timing depends on the size of your tomatoes and how thickly they are cut.  Larger tomatoes can take a couple of hours. These cherry and saladette tomatoes took about forty-five minutes.

Keep the heat on until they are shrivelled, sweet and smoky. I let them cool in the oven once it is turned off to get a more sun-dried tomato texture.

Roasted tomatoes Polka Dot Hen Produce
The finished product

These tomatoes are ready to eat right away. In fact, they are hard to stop eating.

But the really good news for us in February, is that slow roasted tomatoes  can also be frozen.  Thaw and eat as is, or puree into a delicious sauce.

I suppose this technique could be tried on those hard softballs they try to pass off as “tomatoes” in the grocery store. As for me, I’ll head to the freezer and bring out another package of summer.








Final Farmers Market

garlic basket polka dot hen produce
A true sign of fall: cured, cleaned garlic ready for use and storage.


So the market garden season is wrapping up. It is hard to believe on a warm, sunny day like today that there is one final market left. It feels much more like late August than October. Especially in the hoop house.

But here we are on the eve of another Thanksgiving. The days are shorter and the nights are cooler. The trees are turning. Chores and veggie tending have slowed enough to allow for time to review the last few months.

What a summer. Heat. Drought. Well running dry. Flea beetle plagues. And now hordes of slugs. Quite the year to start a market garden. But every year has it’s challenges. Next year we will be stretched in new directions. They tell me, that’s what farming is all about. Better learn to be flexible.

But we made it through, thanks to some timely help from friends and family. And also thanks to our customers. Lovely people who understood the difficultly of growing vegetables without rain. And didn’t get mad when the kale and lettuce we had on our table since early June suddenly were no longer available in August.

We did have some successes though, despite all the curve balls the weather threw our way. Continue reading “Final Farmers Market”

To Market

Erin Gundy selling tomato plants at the Wiarton Farmers Market May 20 2016
First day for Polka Dot Hen Produce at the Wiarton Farmers Market. We sold tomato seedlings, herb divisions and herb bundles. Glad I had my helper/photographer along!


Our First Market Day

The weather was perfect.

The customers were engaged.

The other vendors were welcoming.

What a nice start to our season.

Spring was definitely in the air, so many folks at the Wiarton Farmers Market were ready to talk gardening. It was really fun to geek out on the heirloom tomatoes. Customers were interested, or at least very kind, and let me prattle on about the wonders of Saint Pierre, Cherokee Purple and Matt’s Wild Cherry. I also learned some great new tips for using catnip and lemon balm. I could have easily spent all my earnings with the other vendors at the market. Vending next to the chocolatier…deadly. And so good. I will have to pace myself.

However, there was quite the wind-up before this long-anticipated day. So many things to learn, so many things to consider. Where to start? Continue reading “To Market”