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As an experiment this year, and partially for fun and curiosity, I have convinced HB to let me devote a small section of the garden towards a “three sisters garden.”

Image from Cordite Country Show Notes

The Three Sisters Garden is a method of planting seeds that has its base in Native American civilization.  Many Native American tribes adopted this form of agriculture, but it is said to have originated with the Haudenosaunee, or the “People of the Longhouse” also known as the Iroquois, of the northeastern United States.

The traditional Three Sisters garden, created by the successive planting of corn, beans, and squash, forms a beneficial mini-ecosystem where the plants rely on each other for nutrients, support, and protection.

From Renee’s Garden:

According to Three Sisters legends corn must grow in community with other crops rather than on its own – it needs the beneficial company and aide of its companions.

The Iroquois believe corn, beans and squash are precious gifts from the Great Spirit, each watched over by one of three sisters spirits, called the De-o-ha-ko, or “Our Sustainers”. The planting season is marked by ceremonies to honor them, and a festival commemorates the first harvest of green corn on the cob. By retelling the stories and performing annual rituals, Native Americans passed down the knowledge of growing, using and preserving the Three Sisters through generations.

A Three Sisters garden is made up of three plants, as previously mentioned:  corn, beans, and squash.  The corn (the oldest sister) provides a trellis for the beans to climb and grow upon.  In return, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, not only adding to the soil, but also supplying a nutrient that corn relies heavily upon.  The beans also stabilize the corn plants, making them less susceptible to wind damage.  The squash, often in the form of pumpkins and other winter squashes, provide ground cover, helping keep the threat of weeds to a minimum.  Planting squash also helps prevent erosion, maintains soil moisture, aids in a cooler soil, and provides a ground cover that may help keep out predators (such a raccoons) that want to harvest your garden!  At the end of the season, most of the plant life can be returned to the soil to amend it for the following garden season.

Sounding good yet?  There’s more!

Nutritionally, this combination complements each other.  While the corn helps provide carbohydrates, the beans provide protein, and the squash provide vitamins and healthy oils.

Last week I set up a test plot in our garden, and planted corn.  Once the corn is about 4 inches tall, I will plant the beans.  Two weeks later, the squash (pumpkins) will go into the ground.  I’m very excited to try this!  But beware!  Don’t try to plant all the seeds at once, or else you’ll likely end up with a tangled mess of green growth, and probably not a lot of corn due to the competition.

Want to set up your own Three Sisters garden?  Renee’s Garden has the best format to get you started.

Want more information of the historical value of a Three Sisters garden?  The Bird Clan of Alabama has some of the legend.

Want to read more about how a Three Sisters garden can influence children and how they view the world?  The Center for Ecoliteracy has a beautiful, informative website devoted to this topic.

In late spring, we plant the corn and beans and squash. They’re not just plants- we call them the three sisters. We plant them together, three kinds of seeds in one hole. They want to be together with each other, just as we Indians want to be together with each other. So long as the three sisters are with us we know we will never starve. The Creator sends them to us each year. We celebrate them now. We thank Him for the gift He gives us today and every day.  – Chief Louis Farmer (Onondaga)

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Image from Blue Rose Dairy

Like to cook?

Like goat cheese?

Why not combine the two?

Goat cheese, especially chevre, lends itself well in the kitchen.  It is helpful that many cheese producers make multiple types of chevre flavored with herbs, dried fruits, and other spices.  Each unique, and deserving a life outside of being a cracker passenger.

About a month ago, Caromont Farms posed a question on its Facebook page, challenging its members to think outside the box and cook with goat cheese.  And the responses poured in.  I contributed some of my favorite ways we’ve incorporated goat cheese into dishes at home.  Every time we cook with goat cheese, I take a picture of the finished product.  Eventually I plan to start a series of posts on cooking with goat cheese.

I recently stumbled across this article, Bleating Heart: 10 things with goat cheese, published in The Orange County Register back in April.  The first part of the article tells of the author’s travels and visits to a few goat dairies, and the subsequent tasting of delicious cheeses (and wines!).  The latter half of the article lists 10 ways goat cheese can be incorporated into dishes – from the routine to the more adventuresome (asparagus lasagna? weird, but I am so in).

So I challenge you, readers out there to put aside the Parmesan and pick up a chevre.  If you let me know about it, I’ll include it in my upcoming (and hopefully, regular) series of cooking with goat cheese.

Oh, and don’t forget, in Michael Pollan’s latest book, Food Rules – An Eater’s Manual – rule #33 says “Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacteria or fungi.”  While he mostly refers to kimchi, soy sauce, yogurt, and sourdough bread; I think it’s okay to include cheese in that list. 🙂

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