Columbia Road Market 46
With the first day of August, a certain air of languor has settled over the streets of the East End. School is out for Summer and many are departing for their holidays already. An aura of peace lay across the neighbourhood as I made my way early to the market, only to discover I had arrived before most of the traders. As I sat on a wall in the empty market and ate a bagel while the plant sellers wheeled their trolleys out of the vans, I realised that the dry conditions at this time of year are not ideal for planting. Many gardeners, including myself have seen the garden dry out and accepted now that little can be done until the first signs of Autumn.
Seeing the profusion of Sunflowers in the market reminded me of the Summer I spent on the pilgrims’ path to Santiago de Compostella, commencing at Le Puy in the centre of France, I walked across the Auvergne and Gascony down to the Pyrenees at St Jean Pied de Port and then across the North of Spain through Galicia as far as Finisterre. It was an epic journey and where possible, I stayed in the medieval pilgrims’ refuges and monasteries along the path, getting up at dawn to walk before the heat of the day. I shall never forget the first time I saw the miraculous fields of Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) in the South of France, turning their heads in unison to follow the sun, like a crowd of people in slow motion.
Somewhere in the Haute Garonne, I stayed one night in a remote farmhouse where they gave me Lemon Verbena tea, or Verveine as they referred to it, picked from a pot outside the kitchen window. The intensity of its intoxicating scent and the refreshing flavour of the tea has remained a lifelong favourite to remind me of my roving days. As you can see, I bought a Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora) plant (£3) and a bunch of Sunflowers (£5) today.