The Painted Pony Restaurant, located in historic downtown St. George, Utah, is known for their locally grown, vine ripened, organic heirloom tomatoes. Each August as the local Downtown Farmers Market at Ancestor Square is bursting at the seams with overflowing harvests from local growers people start to wonder where the heirloom tomatoes are. The Painted Pony has a one acre garden north of St. George and about 2,000 feet higher in elevation. It is the perfect environment to grow heirloom tomatoes as St. George gets too hot to grow this specialty crop.
The Restaurant features the tomatoes throughout the menu but the local favorite is the signature heirloom tomato salad: thick slices of juicy tomato layered between mozzarella cheese topped with a balsamic vinaigrette, served with homemade focaccia bread. As their harvest peaks in early to mid September you can even buy the tomatoes whole to take home; you can find them at the restaurant or the Saturday morning Farmers Market.
Many people ask what’s so special about an heirloom tomato verses a regular tomato. Heirloom tomatoes are grown from a long lineage of seeds, passed down from previous generations. Each variety is completely unique, leading to tomatoes in a wide variety of colors, shapes and flavors. Because their yield and growing patterns are less reliable than traditional tomatoes, you will most often find these gems from local sources, such as fruit stands and farmers markets, instead of the local grocery store.
As with all tomatoes, they are best enjoyed at room temperature and kept out of the fridge. Local heirloom tomatoes will only be around until the first freeze – so enjoy while you can.