Belgium: "The ideal area to grow Coeur de Boeuf"

At tomato nursery Den Overkant in Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium they are finishing construction of new greenhouse. According to owner Wim Vertommen, the company has now the ideal area to grow the Coeur de Boeuf.

Wim Vertommen is growing Coeur de Boeuf tomatoes since 1996.

"The market for Coeur de Boeuf is in balance, but as a specialist in this cultivation, we must keep investing. We have grown so much that we can quickly supply our customers and sell the tomatoes at a fair price on the market.

The gutters are installed in the new greenhouse.

Steady growth
Wim and Katrien started the company in 1996 on 10,000 square meter. The company continued to grow steadily, expanding every four years. With the latest expansion of 12,000 m2, the company is now around six hectare. The tomatoes are supplied to customers both domestically and abroad through the auction BelOrta. "The export is mainly directed to the south: Italy with more than 50 percent, but also Spain and Portugal. A large part is for the Belgian market and the demand in Germany is slowly growing."

Two loading docks on the facade with the brand-new logo.

Summer product
The cultivation is spread as much as possible to be able to harvest fresh produce every day. Produce is harvested every day, or sometimes even multiple times per day. "We know exactly what is in our greenhouse. We can harvest what the customer wishes, even small orders in between. "The latest constructed greenhouses are equipped with diffuse glass, but have no lighting inside. A conscious choice of Wim. "For now, we are not going to do this because we believe Coeur de Boeuf to be a real summer product."

The tomatoes of Den Overkant during an open day at auction BelOrta.

Challenging cultivation
The cultivation of Coeur de Boeuf is specific and challenging. It is the grower's job to control the fast growing plant which is sensitive to tip rot. The moment of harvesting must be very precise. The tomatoes color from within. As soon as they start to color orange, they are harvested. Harvesting must take place at exactly the right moment, and that takes quite some experience.

In spite of the challenges, Wim decided -  he is also growing San Marzano - to mainly focus on this beefsteak tomato. "Growers of individual tomatoes and tomatoes-on-the-vine are getting bigger and bigger, and have been able to manage their cultivation very efficiently. As a small grower, you must make sure you are very good in one thing. We do this by specializing in a difficult cultivation. The yield per hectare is considerably smaller than when cultivating regular tomatoes. We have grown so much that we can supply our customers quickly and can sell the tomatoes at a fair price on the market."

There is a lot of variation in Coeur de Boeuf packaging. For example in combination with San Marzano, as these customers show.

Extra packaging lines
Den Overkand doubles the packaging capacity with extra packaging lines. Sorting the tomatoes is still done manually to have more control over quality. "Mechanized sorting also has advantages. It is quicker and the tomatoes are put more uniformly in crates. However, the Coeur de Boeuf tomatoes already have a unique character, and you do not have to try to make exact copies. Moreover, we want to prevent the tomatoes from losing or damaging their crowns."

Packaging is done according the wishes of the customer. Boxes of three or six kilogram or small packaging. "There is an increasing demand for small packaging. Bags of 500 gram with two tomatoes. We are supplying this packaging since two years, and we see an increasing demand."

For more information:
Den Overkant
Koelarenvelden 8
2861 Sint-Katelijne-Waver (België)
T: +32 15 76 12 60
E: wim.katrien@telenet.be


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