In honor of Indigenous Peoples' Day this week, I'm sharing a recipe from Chef Lois Frank, a New Mexico Based chef who hails from the Kiowa Nation on her mother's side. You can find her and her brilliant work documenting foods and life ways of Southwest Native American tribes here.
"The Three Sisters" refers to the three main agricultural crops of various indigenous groups in the Americas: winter squash, maize (corn), and climbing beans. Early agriculturalists used a technique known as "companion planting" where the three crops are planted close together and in a particular growing sequence. Ideally, flat-topped mounds of soil were built for each cluster of crops, about a foot high and 20 inches wide, with several maize seeds planted close together in the center of each mound. In parts of the Atlantic Northeast, rotten fish or eels were buried with the maize seeds, to act as additional fertilizer where needed. When the maize grew to a height of 6 inches, beans and squash are planted around the maize, alternating between the two kinds of seeds.
The three crops grow in a kind of symbiotic relationship. The maize provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil which the other plants use, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, and preventing the establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a "living mulch", creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Corn, beans, and squash contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, and all nine essential amino acids, allowing many Native American tribes to thrive on a predominantly plant-based diet.
Please salt responsibly.
THreE Sisters stew
Serves 4-6 | Prep time: 15 min
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 14 oz cans dark red kidney beans
2 14 oz cans pinto beans
16 oz frozen sweet corn
1 small (< 2lbs) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2in cubes
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1tsp ground black pepper
Optional toppings: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced green onions
Directions: You will need a 6-quart-sized crockpot. Combine all ingredients and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Serve topped with whatever you like. Share, and enjoy!
Let me know what you think!