Despite the heatwave, we have made it to Harpenden Farmers Market. We walk under sheltering trees at a slow pace, the cool air gives us a little respite from the heat. As we approach the market, smells of sweet chocolatey bakes, strong cheeses and venison burgers fill the air and a long line of red and white striped canopies decorate the length of the high street. Cyclamens and pansies awash in vibrant pinks, deep purples and oranges brighten up the pavement.

I spot a stall with neatly displayed miniature tins of olive oil in different colours. Pomora sells a variety of infused ‘Olio d’Oliva Extra Vergine’. I dip some bread into a small dish of Sicilian extra virgin olive oil and realize that this is no ordinary product! I can immediately taste how the southern Mediterranean sun has been absorbed in every squeezed olive. I smile. The vendor can see my pleasure and we start chatting. I discover how his love for Italian food led him to change his career from an IT professional working for Amazon to the world of Italian cuisine.

The olive oil from Sicily is produced from the volcanic soil around Mount Etna; it stands alone in its creaminess and richness but the other oils from Campania also work very well with their various combinations. I know my Italian mother will love the ‘olio al pepperoncino’ so I reluctantly try some and, just as I’d guessed, it’s hot hot hot! Far too spicy for my palate.

The vendor enthuses about the ‘olio al tartufo’ I agree that it would be utterly perfect in an oyster mushroom risotto but I’m not sure about what else; he tells me it works wonders mixed into mash as a much healthier alternative to butter. We chat about how the olives are harvested and produced with care and the health benefits of olive oil. I leave with a tin of some premium Sicilian olive oil and go away thinking about Pomora’s ‘Adopt a Tree’ scheme.

Suddenly the smell of fresh coffee beans wafts through the air and I fill a scoop from each hessian sack and have a good sniff of every type. Many of the beans look too light in colour as I’m used to something a little more intense and full-bodied like Napoli.

I finally narrow my preference down to an Indian coffee, Monsoon Malabar. The vendor is an expert and impressed that I have sniffed out one of his finest blends. “This is one of the smoothest Arabica beans with an earthy taste; it has a little spice and no acidity,” he says. He tells me about his previous career working within a global coffee company and declares that coffee historically originates from Yemen or Ethiopia. I learn that there are two types of coffee bean: robusta, which is quite bitter and not as popular as Arabica, which nowadays is consumed worldwide.

We continue and head to the far end of the high street, admiring the fresh artisan breads, local ciders and pause to try some British farm cheeses such as Devon Oke and Oxford Blue. I stop off to admire the sheer size of the organic marrows and rhubarb, displayed beside large packets of allium and hyacinth bulbs, then join a small crowd around the pie stall. We manage to buy one of the last large raspberry and apple pies which will go perfectly with a little warm custard tonight.

Soon it’s time for lunch. I enjoy practicing my Spanish with the Uruguayan vendor selling warm empanadas. My husband then texts me to go and join him. We sit in a small circular garden on the green just behind the market. It’s perfectly secluded and we stop for lunch. I bite into my empanada filled with spinach and melted goat’s cheese. Delicious! My husband is enjoying a small chicken and ham pork pie and a black pudding scotch egg. It looks ghastly, but being from the north of England, he can’t see what my problem is.

Everybody seems chilled with nothing to rush off to and just enjoying a lazy bank holiday weekend. The temperatures are stifling. We sit with our cappuccinos under the leafy shade. There is no breeze. We don’t say much. It’s just too hot. We linger on the bench then finish our coffees before setting off home to flop on our sofas for a late Sunday afternoon film.

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city