She found it on Craigslist – a 50-acre property that had been sitting vacant for many years but had at one time housed a motel, a convenience store, maybe a barbecue joint and a liquor store.
Now Julia Asherman has a long-term lease with plans to buy this land in Jeffersonville, 25 miles east of Macon in Twiggs County. She’s been there four years operating as Rag & Frass Farm and she has 3 acres in vegetable production.
Having the old motel on the property is a bit of serendipity as that’s where Asherman lives and the motel rooms also provide housing for her farm workers. “Our work is so weather-specific that it would be really tough if my apprentices had to commute to the farm.” Asherman operates her farm with the help of one full-time helper and some part-time volunteers although the need for help varies with the time of year.
She sells her produce at the Wednesday afternoon Mulberry Market in Macon, the Saturday Green Market in Milledgeville and the Sunday Grant Park Farmers Market in Atlanta. She also offers a small community-supported agriculture (CSA) program for her middle Georgia customers and sells on the farm. “I’m also part of a new growers’ cooperative, the Middle Georgia Grower’s Cooperative, down here and that will increase our access to wholesale customers like the restaurant clients I have in Macon and Atlanta.”
One of the most colorful and inviting displays at her market booth is the mix of pole and bush beans she grows each summer. “I grow three varieties of bush beans, one each in yellow, purple and green,” Asherman said. “And I grow four varieties of pole beans, one each in yellow, purple and green and then rattlesnake beans. They’re a mix of heirloom and hybrid varieties.” She also grows Asian long beans that mature a little later in the summer.
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Asherman starts all her beans at the same time. This year, she started them in early April. The bush beans are ready for harvest almost three weeks before the pole beans, so when she first began bringing beans to market at the end of May, she started off with a mixture of bush bean colors.
Then as the summer goes on, she harvests the pole beans and adds them to the mix. It means that each week brings a different mixture of beans for her customers. Some customers enjoy the colorful mix and grab it by the handful, some sift through the basket of beans picking out just the color or variety they want.
Growing beans comes with its challenges. “Most of the farmers I know don’t grow beans in volume at all or limit plantings to only what their CSA needs, or plant only non-trellis types,” Asherman said. “The picking is so much trouble. With bush beans you only get a few good pickings before the quality goes down. And when it rains, the soil splashes on the beans and you have to wash them before you can sell them to your customers. I like growing pole beans because they’re much more prolific and will keep producing until the end of the summer.”
Asherman has six 200-foot long beds devoted to beans. Each row has a trellis down the middle for the pole beans and then one of both sides of the trellis is planted in bush beans.
As for eating those beans, Asherman says she does most of her bean eating while she’s picking. “I’m always snacking as I go. They’re so good raw. And I really hate overcooked beans. They’re great raw in a salad, steamed or used in stir fries. The thing my mom taught me is to steam or saute them, then add a little butter, salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. That’s a family food secret I love sharing with my customers.”
PeachDish’s Beef & Mushroom ‘Blended Burger’ with Spicy Snap Beans
Seth Freedman, culinary director for PeachDish, shares this recipe for a dish that will be available through the PeachDish website through midnight July 31. The first week, he put this dish on the menu, he ordered 150 pounds of Rag & Frass’ bush beans to have enough for all his customers.
Note: The recipe calls for PeachDish salt, which is Magic Unicorn Salt from Beautiful Briny Sea. It’s available at many local farmers markets, the Buford Highway Farmers Market and Whole Foods, or you can substitute a pinch of all the ingredients in the salt: salt, celery seed, rosemary, granulated garlic and smoked paprika.
Freedman created the Blended Burger recipe as part of the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project. Restaurants around the country are participating by creating burgers blending ground meat with chopped mushrooms, and people can vote for their favorite at https://www.jamesbeard.org/blendedburgerproject/vote.
In sending the recipe, Freedman wrote, “Grass-fed beef already has the upper hand over conventionally raised beef in that it offers fuller flavor and more heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But when the overall quantity of meat is reduced by blending it with chopped mushrooms, this burger becomes an even better choice. And it tastes great, too. Topped with shaved Parmesan and served on a bun with a side of sriracha-spiced green beans, it’s a satisfying meal.”
3 ounces oyster mushrooms
3 ounces shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon cooking oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
6 ounces green beans (about 2 cups), tips removed
1/2 teaspoon PeachDish Salt (see note)
1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/2 pound grass-fed ground beef
2 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)
2 hamburger buns
Handful of arugula leaves
Discard stems from oyster and shiitake mushrooms and finely chop caps. You should have a total of 1 cup chopped mushrooms.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 teaspoon cooking oil. When oil is shimmering add chopped mushrooms and half the garlic. Cook gently until mushrooms are tender and most of the liquid is evaporated. Transfer mushrooms and garlic to a small bowl, making sure to remove all pieces from pan and let cool.
Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon cooking oil. Add green beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until they darken, about 2 minutes. Add remaining garlic and 1/4 teaspoon PeachDish Salt. Cook 1-2 minutes more. Add Aminos, sriracha and sesame seeds and stir to thoroughly incorporate. Remove beans to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out skillet for next use.
Form burgers: In a medium bowl, combine beef, mushroom mixture and remaining 1/4 teaspoon PeachDish Salt. Form into 2 patties 5-6 inches in diameter. Make patties a little thinner in the middle.
Return skillet to cooktop over medium-high heat. Add remaining teaspoon cooking oil. Add burgers, and cook on first side until well browned on the bottom and droplets of liquid begin to come out on top, 3-4 minutes. Flip burgers, and top with Parmesan. Cover and cook about 2 minutes more for medium-rare to medium or 6-8 minutes for well done.
Spread bottom halves of buns with mustard. Top each with 1/2 of the arugula and 1 burger. Serve with beans on the side and enjoy! Serves: 2
Per serving: 791 calories (percent of calories from fat, 47), 43 grams protein, 64 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams fiber, 42 grams fat (16 grams saturated), 107 milligrams cholesterol, 1,565 milligrams sodium.