The Three Sisters are central to Native American culture, from agriculture to mythology to nutrition. These three crops are squash, corn and beans, and they've been the main agricultural crops throughout Native American history history. This fall harvest stew is a delicious, autumnal recipe using this ancient knowledge in a healthy, yummy way.

The Three Sisters

In Native American mythology, the three sisters are the daughters of Mother Earth, regarded as the "sustainers of life." They're considered the "Holy Trinity" of a number of Indigenous cultures, renowned for their agricultural sustainability and nutritional value. By planting these three crops together, farmers can ensure that the soil remains healthy and that the crops work together.

When planting these three crops, the beans are planted at the base of the corn stalks, which are perfect for the bean vines to climb as they seek sunlight. The beans then bring nitrogen back into the soil, fertilizing the corn and squash. As for the squash, its broad leaves protect the bean plant from predators. Here's how to plant a three sisters garden to take advantage of this trifecta!

Along with providing agricultural sustainability, these three crops make up a balanced diet. Corn is full of carbohydrates, while beans have protein and amino acids. As for the squash, it's full of vitamins and minerals important to the body's functioning. Although these are the basic ingredients for a thee sisters stew, many recipes also incorporate other veggies to get even more vitamin C, potassium and calcium.

A three sisters stew is also gluten free, ideal for a Thanksgiving main dish or a filling, flavorful dinner on a chilly day. For extra flavor, you can use vegetable stock or chicken stock instead of water. You can also use an instant pot for convenience. For the beans, you can use any combination of pinto beans, kidney beans or black beans. Although this recipe is vegan and tastes like a robust, vegan chili, there are also versions with meat. For those who want meat incorporated into their stew recipe, here's a tasty recipe with pork loin.

How to Make Three Sisters Stew

Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Add the onion and sauté over low-medium heat until clear.

Add in the garlic and sauté until onion has reached a golden color. Add all remaining ingredients except for the cilantro, salt and pepper. Bring to a slow boil.

Once mixture reaches boiling point, lower the heat and simmer gently, covered, until all veggies are tender. This should take about 25-30 minutes, and your stew should be thick rather than watery.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, add in the cilantro and stir. Garnish with extra cilantro, and enjoy this nutritional meal brought to us by Native American agricultural practices!

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Three Sisters Stew 

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes

servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped 
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 16-oz package fresh precut large butternut squash
  • 1 medium green or red bell pepper, cut into strips 
  • 1 14-oz can can diced tomatoes
  • 2 15-oz cans beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels 
  • 1-2 hot chile peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
  • 1 tbsp barbecue seasoning blend
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Add the onion and sauté over low-medium heat until clear.

Add in the garlic and sauté until onion has reached a golden color. Add all remaining ingredients except for the cilantro, salt and pepper. Bring to a slow boil.

Once mixture reaches boiling point, lower the heat and simmer gently, covered, until all veggies are tender. This should take about 25-30 minutes, and your stew should be thick rather than watery.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, add in the cilantro and stir. Garnish with extra cilantro, and enjoy this nutritional meal brought to us by Native American agricultural practices!