The Three Sisters

Do you know about the three sisters? Native peoples of the Americas have known about them for thousands of years. The three sisters are corn, beans, and squash. These plants are shown on the back of the 2009 Sacagawea dollar coin. Why are they so special? Planting these three foods together makes good sense - in more ways than one.

Many native peoples on the North American continent planted this trio. First, corn seeds were planted in a hill of soil. When the corn shoots were a few inches high, pole bean and squash seeds were planted around them. The beans sprouted quickly. As they grew, they climbed on the taller corn stalks. The bean plants fixed nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen helped the corn grow, and the corn stalks supported the bean plants. The broad leaves of the squash plant shaded the roots of the other plants. The shade kept the soil from drying out too quickly. It also helped prevent the growth of weeds.

The three sisters made good sense nutritionally, too. Corn and beans both have carbohydrates for energy. Each has two essential things our bodies need that the other lacks. But eaten together, they make a complete protein our bodies can use. Unlike protein from meat, it is low in fat and cholesterol. Squash gives us vitamin C and other nutrients. The three sisters are low in calories. They give us fiber and antioxidants. They protect us from cancer and other diseases.

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