The Three Sisters

     CORN is a gift of the North American Indian people to the world. When the Europeans arrived they learned from the Indians how to plant what became their staple foods. Corn was usually planted with Climbing Beans and Squash in the same hole (companion planting) and they worked together so closely they were called “The Three Sisters.” The Sisters were planted together in the center of flat-topped mounds a foot high and two feet wide. The Corn provided a stalk for the Bean vines to climb around, and the Beans returned the favor by replacing the nitrogen in the soil. The Squash spread out its broad shady leaves to keep other plants from crowding out the Corn. Rotten fish were buried in the mound for fertilizer.

The Three Sisters

      The Three Sisters were planted in April, May, and June to allow for a long season. The corn can be eaten fresh or dried. All parts of the Corn were used: the husks made mats, dolls, masks; the stalks could be used for fuel; even the cobs had their uses. Below is a Native American recipe:

     5 C prepared white corn
     3 C prepared kidney beans
     1 C cooked pumpkin/squash
     1 smoked turkey thigh
     3 quarts water
     several fresh sage leaves
     salt to taste
     1 small onion, minced
   Directions: Boil turkey thigh in 3 quarts of water for about 1 hour. Add 5 cups prepared white corn, 3 cups prepared kidney beans rinsed and the small onion. Boil gently for 15 minutes and then add chopped sage leaves, salt and squash for another 15 minutes. Add more water as needed.

The recipe was modified from a collection of Indian recipes available at:

Chief Roy Crazy Horse, leader of the Powhatan Renape Nation, was an advocate for his nation and wrote stories about them and their life for more than 30 years. He died in 2004 at 79. His story of the Three Sisters formed the basis of this story. Visit the Powhatan website for more info:

Tomorrow: Capt. John Smith’s Shopping List         Rita Bay


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4 responses to “The Three Sisters

  1. Steve

    This is great. Thanks Rita Bay! I bet school kids would love this too.

  2. It’s amazing how much corn means to all of us. What would we do without just the corn oil?
    Love this blog.
    Thanks Rita.

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