Tomatoes! Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Close-up: Tomatoes, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Fresh and juicy – in all their shades of yellow-to-red – tomatoes have become central to cooking world over.


Salad, salsa, pasta sauce, creamy curry, pizza, ratatouille, juice, gazpacho… the list goes on.

Tomatoes have become central to cooking world over. In season, I keep them planted in my garden, and I always have plenty – large ones for cooking and sandwiches and small ones for salads – tucked in my fridge. Originally native to western-South America and Central America, and cultivated domestically in Mexico before 500 BC, it’s hard to believe tomatoes were only introduced to Europe and Asia by the Spanish in the early 1500s.

One of the things I love about travelling with photo-tours is that you regularly devote time to places other groups minimise or ignore completely. This gives me more of a real glimpse into “ordinary” everyday life. After all, when was the last time you stopped to spend time in a tomato distribution centre?

I was in Nyaung Shwe on the north shore of Inle Lake in Myanmar, with photographer Karl Grobllocal guide Mr MM, and nine other photography enthusiasts, when I had the opportunity to watch local Burmese at work.

Tomatoes in baskets in boats, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Tomato Boats
Tomatoes are grown on the floating farms of Inle Lake, and come into the distribution centre by boat.

Tomatoes in baskets in boats, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Tomato Baskets
The colours are fresh and bright in the morning sunlight.

Men carrying a large basket of tomatoes, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Men Delivering Tomatoes
Every step of the food chain is labour intensive.

Tomatoes in baskets in boats, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

The produce is bright against the dark canal waters.

Tomatoes in baskets in a boat, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Tomato Boat
The long, graceful boats laden with full baskets sit low in the water.

Boxed Tomatoes, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Boxed Tomatoes

Tomatoes in a warehouse, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

The Warehouse
Inside, it is dark and cool.

Tomatoes in a warehouse, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Sorting Tomatoes
Women sort through tomatoes of all colours from the pile on the bamboo platform.

Sorting tomatoes from the bins into baskets, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Sorting Tomatoes
Tomatoes fly into the baskets.

Portrait of a Burmese woman with a red flower, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Workers chat and laugh as they perform their work.

Woven basket in the Corner

In the Corner
Light slants through the woven walls as tomatoes fly towards a lone basket.

Tomatoes in baskets, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Tomatoes in Baskets

Woven basket sitting in tomatoes, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Red Glow
Light through the walls bounces off the ripe fruit.

Men pouring tomatoes into warehouse bins, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Heavy Lifting

tomatoes pouring into warehouse bins, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar


Leading Lines, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Light and Lines

Burmese man with an accounting notebook, , Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

The Bookkeeper
All the baskets of tomatoes moving in and out of the storehouse are recorded in a notebook.

Tomatoes, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Warm and rich smelling, the baskets of tomatoes sit in the sun.

Text: Bon AppétitI loved the smell and the colour and the shape of tomatoes.

Clearly, a lot of work has gone into getting these ones to market ~

I have no doubt but that it was worth it.

Bon appétit!

Photographs: 23September2012

  • Kevin Dowie - December 11, 2015 - 10:03 am

    Another colourful and, dare I say it, tasteful photo essay! Nice work Ursula.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - December 11, 2015 - 10:49 am

      Thanks, Kevin! Lovely to have your visit. 😀ReplyCancel

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