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The Three Sisters, Beans, Corn and Squash!

By Nan

March 13, 2014

Native Americans all across the USA planted these three crops for a very good reason. By combining them in there diet they had a base of complete nutrition. It is not just any kind of beans. corn and squash. You need to grow mature dry beans, corn as a grain and winter keeping squash. String beans, sweet corn and summer squash will not do. Neither beans or corn develop protein until fully mature and dry. Summer squash has almost no calories and not that much in the way of vitamins. Both corn and beans contain Amino Acids which are the building blocks our bodies use to assemble protein. We need about 4 or 5 times as much corn in our diet to balance with dry beans.

Corn in early August
Corn Tasseled out
Corn Stalks and Silk

Early European settlers learned about The Three Sisters from the Native Americans. This combination almost certainly helped them to survive too. Today we know more about why this combination works so well. The bottom line is that it still is a very good basic diet, and works just as well today as it has for centuries.

Seasoning Baked Beans
Sweetening the pot of Beans
Beans ready to 'Bake'

Native Americans needed nutritious foods which store well and provide calories protein and vitamins. Agriculture provided a foundation while hunting and fishing complemented their diet. Most people would rather have plenty of meat or fish every day, but we can live well on mostly The Three Sisters. As any hunter or fisherman knows, you can spend all day out there and come home empty handed. The Three Sisters you can grow in your garden. They store well so they are available as you need them.

Cornbread making 6
Cornbread making 7
Indian Corn

Beans and Squash both have to be grown in full sunlight all day long. They must not be shaded by trees or buildings. Corn must be grown in blocks of 4 or more rows for the best pollination. Tall corn and pole beans will also shade the area to the north. To grow a balanced amount of The Three Sisters we only need a single wide row for squash so arrange your garden so that it is along the side toward the south. The runners from the squash will need lots of room so allow at least 6 feet of garden space on both sides of the row of hills of winter squash.The row or hills of corn closest to the squash will have full sun all day long, You can plant pole beans among that one row of corn when it is 4 inches high. The rest of your corn crop should be in at least 3 more adjacent rows to the north side of the first row so it will not shade the beans growing up on that first row of corn.

Butternut Squash
Waltham Butternut Squash
Light VS Dark

So which way is south? A simple way to tell is notice where the sun rises and sets on the horizon. Stand in your garden area with your arms out straight to each side. Turn your head to the left and have that arm pointing toward where the sun rises. Now turn your head to the right and have that arm pointing to where the sun sets. Look straight ahead, and that is south.

Waltham Butternut Squash
'Three Cup' Skillet Cornbread
Waltham Butternut Squash seed!