Behind Lawrence Helle, Jr.'s wizened features, a pair of incisive, agile eyes betray his razor-sharp mind. He has been selling corn at the Toledo Farmers' Market for 65 years, and his father sold corn for 70 years before him. His diagnosis of this growing season was quick and precise.
"Need rain." He glanced upward.
Although Mr. Helle gave a lukewarm review of this year's growing season, the hundreds of ears of corn heaped upon the tabletops of the farmers' market yesterday marked the start of another harvesting season in Ohio.
Most of the farmers at the market yesterday harvested for the first time on Friday, said Becky Kornmeier, the project coordinator for the farmers' market. The farmers' market celebrated yesterday with a "Corn Crazy!" event, which included a kernel counting contest, free corn salad samples, and music by Ten Mile Creek.
Every person buying or selling corn at the market could list a multitude of ways to prepare and eat the corn. At a dollar a dozen on many tables, market patrons should be able to sample every single one.
Dan Madigan, the executive director of the farmers' market, prefers his corn with lime and pepper instead of butter and salt.
Diane Rogers of Syd & Diane's in Perrysburg bakes her corn in the oven with the silk removed, but still inside the husks, with a bit of water, at about 400 degrees. "That way, you don't have to steam up the house," she said.
While most market goers cook their corn, a few impatient patrons were caught gnawing on raw sweet corn.
Ms. Rogers demonstrated how to make a summer corn salad using the freshest farmers' market ingredients. She stuck the corn in slightly salted-and-peppered boiling water for only a few minutes while she chopped some onions and fresh basil, peeled and diced early-season tomatoes, and swept it all into a bowl.
After quickly pulling the corn from the pot, she sliced the kernels from the cob and mixed them into the salad, added a touch of garlic and kosher salt, split the salad into two bowls, pouring extra virgin olive oil on one and lime olive oil on the other, scooped it into trays, and listened to the crowd's adoration. "In the winter, you throw this on like nobody's business," she said, brandishing a bottle of vinegar, "but in the summer, you don't want to mask the flavors of the corn and tomatoes and onions."
At any given booth, vendors were quick to share their own recipes, and while corn was the centerpiece of yesterday's market, other summer goods have been flowing in as well.
Ella Hall, the daughter of Katie Thomas, who has hawked produce at the farmers' market since 1951, sold green tomatoes yesterday with Thomas Family Farms while teaching the more clueless passersby how to make the best fried green tomatoes.
"You clean your tomatoes, you slice them, some people like 'em sliced thick and some people like 'em sliced thin, then, dip them in milk, which will help with the browning," Ms. Hall said. "If you put in a little pinch of sugar, it will make them get crisper quicker," she continued with a wink, "and if you have a sweet tooth, like I do, you can put maple syrup on 'em."
The farmers' market began in 1932, Mr. Madigan said. The best local, in-season produce at the moment, he said, is corn, early tomatoes, greens, beans, zucchini, squash, herbs, peppers, and black raspberries.
Corn season will last for about 8-12 weeks, Mr. Madigan said, and despite his disappointment at the clear sky, Mr. Helle will continue to sell his harvest.
"It's small, but it's good," Mr. Helle assured.
Contact Ali Seitz at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.