The historical origin of the Rockwell Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is unknown. It is believed that the bean is descended from a very old German-Hungarian bean known as the Rote Von Paris or Piros Feher bean. The bean is an extremely rare heirloom variety of bush bean that has historically been grown by farmers of Ebey’s Prairie in Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington where it became popular in the small pioneer community for its ability to germinate in cool soils and mature rapidly – both extremely important traits in a cool, maritime climate.
The Rockwell Bean is a beautiful white bean with cranberry mottling around the hilum. The beans can be planted in May as soon as the soil is warm and are ready for harvest in 80-90 days. The Rockwell is considered a “cassoulet” type bean, which keeps its shape, yet cooks up creamy and rich, and accepts many flavors. The bean is currently grown by only four farmers, who are the descendants of Ebey’s Prairie pioneer families. The beans are available at the local farmers markets and a few retail stores, and disappear quickly as soon as they appear on the shelves.
It is hard to grow the Rockwell Beans for commercial sales, as they are not meant for large-scale mechanical harvest. It is impossible to get them dry enough to field thresh before they start dropping their beans. However, on a small scale, the plants can be pulled and put into storage to finish drying before threshing. Small scale producers hand pull the crop and store it in sheds for about a month until they are entirely dry.