Corn, pole beans, and squash were considered by the Iroquois nation as gifts from the Great Spirit. They were grown, harvested and served together. There are several versions of the story of the three sisters but the underlying theme is that sisters are inseparable and each are valuable to the others well being.
~ Just like the eldest sister, corn provides the support to lift the beans to the sunlight.
~ The middle sister is often called the giving sister, and beans pull nitrogen from the air to enrich the soil for her and her sisters to thrive. She also intertwines herself through each plant and keeps her family close.
~ The curiosity of the youngest sister can be seen in the sprawling squash, and her loyalty (leaves) protect her sisters by creating a living mulch which keeps the soil moist, cool and prevents weeds and wild pests from invading their home.
This practice is known today as inter-planting and serves as an efficient way to utilize a small amount of space. In the Three Sisters system corn is planted first. As the plants emerge, the soil is made into hills around them. When the corn plants are tall enough, beans are planted in the hills, and squash is planted close to the perimeter. Anyone care for some succotash?