Beef Heart Tomatoes

Tomates Coeur de Boeuf

On this rainy August day (this is not the weather I signed up for! I want a refund!) I just had to share with you the perfectness of these here tomatoes, bought at our produce store on rue des Abbesses. They are everything you could possibly hope for in a tomato — stark red, heavy in your hand, thin-skinned and fleshy, fragrant, sweet and juicy.

This particular variety, with its plump ribs just begging to be sliced, is called Coeur de Boeuf — literally “beef heart”. And seeing that we also have tiny olive-shaped tomatoes that go by the name of Coeur de Pigeon (“pigeon heart”, but you figured that out), it sort of makes you wonder why produce marketers have to resort to carnivorous metaphores to sell their tomatoes, no?

  • Between the wonderful heirloom variety tomatoes, fragrant sweet melons and plump fresh ears of corn, all found at our local farmer’s market right now, at this time of year I could most easily become a vegetarian!

    Lovely picture!

  • Several years ago, I was lucky to travel to France in March and was able to pick up a few packs of seeds at a garden center close to the factory where I was visiting a potential customer. I got four types of tomatoes, a zucchini, and a couple of melon varieties. None of these were then available in the US. The melons didn’t do well in Ohio, but the zukes and tomatoes did well enough to impress Carl, my 80 year old neighbor and fellow gardener. One variety that did exceptionally well was the variety described above. Luckily, the variety is open polenated, so I was able to save seed and grow the same variety every year. It is unfortunate that in America, varieties are too often judge on shippability and visual appeal to folk who don’t understand that taste is important, not the lack of ridges.
    By the way, there is an American variety called Beef Heart or Bull’s Heart that is substantially different from the French version. While the American variety is a fine tomato in it’s own right, the flavor is less complex and the skin thicker.

  • Peter

    I think this is one of the older varieties of tomatoes. At least they have only recently been (re?)introduced to the market by “pro specie rara” here in Switzerland.

  • Laura

    Wow, those are beeyooteeful!

    We have “beefsteak tomatoes” here in the U.S. but they look different–no ridges.

  • I can hardly remember the last time I ate a tomato with that look! here in Spain you can find many kind of tomatoes (many of them come from Morocco) and though they are of an intence red, they are tasteless and they are green in the inside. a shame…

  • Heather

    Wow… just wow…. me and my boyfriend Vlad will be staying on Rue Hudon next weekend, and I am so looking forward to trying new things from the produce vendors. Speaking of, since we will be close to your neighborhood, is there anything from the US you would like for us to bring you?

  • David

    Gorgeous! Everything a good tomate should be!

  • Hi Clotilde, in the meat-and-potatoes lovin’ US, it’s not just tomatoes that take on these meaty, fleshy monikers, of which the heart is perhaps the most popular. One of my favorite fruits, a deep purple-red plum currently in season in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the elephant heart plum.

  • Rainey

    I have been completely delighted this year by a French tomato that’s growing in my garden in California. It’s called Noire Charbonneuse. You might look for it because it’s completely delicious with a really deep flavor.

    It’s a globe tomato of about 5 ounces with a deep maroon color that growers refer to as “black”. It’s truly outstanding!

    PS I just listened to you on the Amateur Gourmet site. I was astounded to hear that you haven’t a trace of accent. I am sooo jealous of your enormous skill in two languages.

  • Hsian

    I love tomatoes!

    Ode to Tomatoes
    By Pablo Neruda

    The street
    filled with tomatoes,
    light is
    its juice
    through the streets.
    In December,
    the tomato
    the kitchen,
    it enters at lunchtime,
    its ease
    on countertops,
    among glasses,
    butter dishes,
    blue saltcellars.
    It sheds
    its own light,
    benign majesty.
    Unfortunately, we must
    murder it:
    the knife
    into living flesh,
    a cool
    populates the salads
    of Chile,
    happily, it is wed
    to the clear onion,
    and to celebrate the union
    child of the olive,
    onto its halved hemispheres,
    its fragrance,
    salt, its magnetism;
    it is the wedding
    of the day,
    its flag,
    bubble vigorously,
    the aroma
    of the roast
    at the door,
    it’s time!
    come on!
    and, on
    the table, at the midpoint
    of summer,
    the tomato,
    star of earth, recurrent
    and fertile
    its convolutions,
    its canals,
    its remarkable amplitude
    and abundance,
    no pit,
    no husk,
    no leaves or thorns,
    the tomato offers
    its gift
    of fiery color
    and cool completeness.

  • k1rk

    What a beautiful picture! My mouth is watering. I’m glad there’s a farmer’s market today.

  • Hsian

    Love your blog btw – read it almost religiously everyday :). Am a Malaysian of the “live to eat” garden variety

  • Courtney

    I live in the “heartland” of the United States (my state is mostly farmland), and yet I never see tomatoes like that in stores! It’s really depressing buying the hard, faded things they call tomatoes here. I miss my Dad’s homegrown ones, which were fantastic! I guess that’s the only way to get them.

  • susan

    One of my favorite cookbooks is Patricia Wells Bistro Cooking.She gives a recipe for Tomates a la Provencale. Tomato beauties that are halved and generously doused with olive oil, lots of sliced garlic and fresh bread crumbs on top. She bakes in a wood oven.I have taken culinary license and arranged them in my cast iron skillet and then put on the grill of my weber charcoal grill….the carmelised bits of goodness and the sweet,sweet tomatoes are slightly smokey and mostly wonderful beyond description (and they are almost as tasty when cold!)

  • Wow. What beautiful tomatoes! I was about to call them “meaty” which is funny given your puzzlement over the use of carnivorous metaphors. I suppose it goes back to days of yore when the prized sustenance of meat was elusive and far-between.

    Btw, I loved your interview with Adam. Thanks so much for offering your time. It was interesting to hear (literally!) a little more about you!

  • Pesto Man

    interesting…I can remember one farmers Market when an older acadian gentleman, (at least in his 70’s) identified an heirloom tomato(if memory serves, a cherokee purple) as the kind of tomato his mother used to call “coeur de boef” apparently this “carnivorous” description perhaps goes back to before the French settled in Nova Scotia, and were later forced out by the English in the 18th century eventually migrating to French Louisiana where the became the famous cajuns known for Evangeline, spicy food, and an inate ability to “pass a good time”

  • Thomas S

    These tomatoes are a real delight, but like others species “re-discovered”, such as the little strawberries called Gariguettes, or Mara des bois, growed here in Provence, they can become industrial products too. Now one has to be careful when buying some. I found Cœur de bœuf at home in Marseille last year and they were delicious but the first time i found some, this year, they appeared to have no taste at all ! in comarison, i bought some from al small farmer in the Cevennes, and they were truly delicious, whitout a trace of acidity !

  • Alisa

    Beautiful! Les Tomates et la photo, aussi!

  • Wow!
    I want “those” tomatoes…

  • Those are gorgeous tomatoes. I hope that someone growing heirloom tomatoes around here reads your blog and gets some seeds. I would love to have some. I love ridgey tomatoes.

    We don’t seem to have a lot of carnivorous names for tomatoes in English, except for “beefsteak” (which is a type – large red – not particularly a varietal).

  • drooling at your photo…wish i could take a bite along with a piece of mozzarella, basil leaf, and drizzled by olive oil. thank you

  • Carol

    Back in the 1970’s (?) my father bought some “Beef Heart” tomato plants in Bergholtz, NY,US. They also called them “German Tomatoes”. Shortly after, these plants were unobtainable but the tomatoes were the best. They were meaty and sweet with a purplish-red color. He has saved seeds over the years and has a few plants each year. He just turned 87 and still has his garden. Someone I work with now used to work with my father. My father gave him some tomatoes and he saved seeds year after year and likes these the best, too. He is calling them “Polish Tomatoes”. I think he got a little mixed up! I don’t know where the name “German Tomato” came from since they do look like a heart. Ours are not as ridged.

  • Anna

    Charlotte- are beefsteaks really not varietals? Ive gotten the seeds and grown something specifically called “beefsteaks” before. I thought maybe it was the US version of coeur de boeuf. They sort of look the same.

    Anyhow I love homegrown tomatoes almost more than anything. I look forward to them all year! Farmers markets and the organic produce store do quite well but nothing is quite like something you grew yourself.

  • Cherril

    OooOOo — can we get some of those beautiful tomatoes here in the US? I see where one reader had seeds — does anyone know if these might be or become available in the US. Yum!

  • Cherril

    OooOOo — can we get some of those beautiful tomatoes here in the US? I see where one reader had seeds — does anyone know if these might be or become available in the US. Yum!

  • charles foley

    I have not seen these tomatoes for years and never in a enclosed market or chain store.
    I am 80 yeas old and remember them as being delicious and rather low in acid.
    No longer to be found even in ‘stalls’ in the midwest as far as I know. They don’t know what they are missing. I will not buy tomatoes from the chain stores. These pre ripined things are tasteless and a waste of money. Plus they are far too expensive.

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