Origin: Western North America
Improvement status: Cultivar
Seeds per packet: ~40 ($3.50)
Bulk seeds per packet: ~160 ($10.50)
Germination tested 11/2020: 99%
Life cycle: Annual
Hailing from the Palouse region of southeastern Washington and north central Idaho, ‘Appaloosa’ excels in cooler climates and is resistant to pests and disease. This unique bean is covered in black splashes and spot color patterns akin to the Nez Perce Appaloosa horse and almost boomerang curved in shape. Like a wilder cousin of the ‘Orca’ bean. Cue “Wild Horses” theme song!
Appaloosa has a mild flavor and firm texture, commonly used similarly to kidney or red beans, in mash (refried bean), casseroles, soups, etc. It’s firmness naturally lends to its use as a fine-textured pot bean that holds up well in stews, soups, and of course chilli. Also, try it in salad recipes like a Mediterranean bean salad.
The exact history of this bean appears to be shrouded in mystery. To make matters worse, there is a lot of parroted and conflicting information on the web about this bean. It does appear to be an heirloom and may be a traditional bean of the Nez Perce people. It may have resulted from a cross of a kidney or pinto bean, as some pinto-like off-types can be seen from time to time. There is a seemingly similar bean called ‘Vermont Appaloosa’ which according to Seed Savers Exchange traces back to R.H. Shumway in 1998. However, references to this bean go back decades prior.
Maturing early and drying down uniformly, this bean has been a good performer in dry farm bean trials in both the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Snoqualmie Valley near Seattle, Washington. Pods hold beans well during harvest and yet are easy to thresh. ‘Appaloosa’ sets pods on short bushes which tend to have seven beans per pod. A flageolet-type bean that for a short window can be picked green and used as an excellent-flavored snap bean.
This bean lot has been carefully selected for a slightly larger size and more uniform color patterns. ‘Appaloosa’ appears to have a higher crossing rate than other normal Phaseolus vulgaris bean varieties. For varietal purity, grow this isolated by about 50 feet from other beans of the same species. One advantage of this trait is that this bean likely has better potential to adapt to diverse growing environments over time. It could also be the basis of a bean mix landrace, or the start of a new bean breeding project.
From Chris Homanics of Head, Hands, Heart Nursery and Seed in Washington state, grown in collaboration with Sean Stratman of Dancing Crow Farm.
GROWING TIPS: Direct seed after danger of last frost, probably early to mid May, or as late as early to mid June. Rows could be 12-18 inches apart, plants could be 6-10 inches apart. Harvest as pods dry, or pull entire plants when most of the pods are dry. If possible, avoid harvesting during or after heavy rains.