These essential ingredients aren’t just good eating—they’re ingenious agriculture.
North America’s three sisters aren’t people; they’re crops. Corn, beans, and squash, to be exact, plants that form the bedrock of the indigenous American diet. Besides good taste and obvious nutritional benefits, the three sisters were a critical fixture of Native American life because of how well they grew together.
When planted in a single field, each crop supports one another to develop an ingeniously effective organic ecosystem: beans return nitrogen to the soil, helping the other plants grow; corn stalks give bean vines natural poles to climb; and squash spread out along the ground, preventing weeds from popping up. The three sisters growing method began in pre-Columbian Mexico and spread as far as Iroquois groups in the Northeast, and it’s still practiced to this day. Brilliant agriculture—and delicious.