Bill Brooks has been a presence at the Minneapolis Farmers Market for so long that he can't put a time stamp on it. "But it has been all my life, probably since I was 5 years old, and I'm 50," he said with a laugh.
In the spring, Brooks and his children Katie, Rob and Christie sell flowers and bedding plants, and in the fall, the family turns its attention to tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and squash. But as July melts into August, their efforts are all about sweet corn -- five varieties of juicy, bicolor corn, to be exact, cultivated in Brooklyn Park.
Bill Brooks estimates that this year's sweet corn crop is maturing about a week and a half later than normal, the result of a lousy spring growing season. Which explains why last Saturday was the first day that Team Brooks was hawking this always anticipated symbol of summer, a dozen ears at a time. "We've been hearing, 'It's about time, we've been waiting,'" said Katie Brooks. "People are always anxious for sweet corn."
Present company included. It was easy to spy the Brooks operation at Sunday morning's market. Theirs was the table set up behind the back of a pickup truck, its bed weighed down with a small mountain of pale green, silk-tasseled corn. The task of filling the truck's bed to overflowing required three people working in the field, a driver and roughly 90 minutes late in the afternoon on Saturday.
Sweet corn should be enjoyed as soon as possible after being harvested, to make the most of its prized sugars, which start to deteriorate the moment the corn is picked.
"It's always better right away," said Bill Brooks. "Although you can keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of days, and it'll be OK." His preferred preparation method: boiling. "I'm old-fashioned," he said. "I'm not sold on the microwave."
No matter the process, the secret to perfect sweet corn is to not overcook it. Try this: Remove the husk and any corn silk strands, place the corn in a large pot, cover with cold water and put the pot on the stove over high heat. Once the water begins to vigorously bubble, remove the pot from the stove, drain the water, reach for the butter and smile.
Sweet corn ($6/dozen) at Bill Brooks' stand at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, 312 E. Lyndale Av. N., Mpls., www.mplsfarmers market.com. Open 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily; Brooks sells Saturday and Sunday. For sweet corn recipes, go to Startribune.com/tabletalk. For a map of Twin Cities metro-area farmers markets, go to Startribune.com/taste.