Three Sisters Soup

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The Kanienkehaka (Iroquois) Legend of the Three Sisters

The term “Three Sisters” emerged from the Iroquois creation myth. It was said that the earth began when “Sky Woman” who lived in the upper world peered through a hole in the sky and fell through to an endless sea. The animals saw her coming, so they took the soil from the bottom of the sea and spread it onto the back of a giant turtle to provide a safe place for her to land. This “Turtle Island” is now what we call North America.  Sky woman had become pregnant before she fell. When she landed, she gave birth to a daughter. When the daughter grew into a young woman, she also became pregnant (by the West wind). She died while giving birth to twin boys. Sky Woman buried her daughter in the “new earth.” From her grave grew three sacred plants—corn, beans, and squash. These plants provided food for her sons, and later, for all of humanity. These special gifts ensured the survival of the Iroquois people.
Source:  Erney, Diana. 1996. Long live the Three Sisters. Organic Gardening. November.p.37-40.

August is the month of the corn, bean and squash. It is also the harvest ceremony that marks the end of the ceremonial cycle.
(Source: KANATSIOHAREKE Mokawk Community website).


Corn, Bean & Squash Polyculture and Nutrition

A Three Sisters Garden is an agricultural method of the Indigenosu peoples of Turtle Island. It uses polyculture - growing more then one crop in the same plot to good advantage. The three sisters, ‘corn, bean and squash’, are planted together and the combination of plants helps each of them to produce fully.

  • Corn has a high need for nitrogen, and beans produce a high amount of nitrogen.
  • Climbing beans need something to climb and a corn stalk is a great natural trellis.
  • Squash plants spread and provide a natural weed cover and moisture-retaining shade for the other plants.

The three plants are also a nutrition powerhouse when combined. Corn contains carbohydrate, providing a rich source of energy while beans provide protein and fibre to help balance the release of sugar into the bloodstream, keeping us fuller for longer. The squash is full of nutrients, such as vitamin A that helps to maintain good eye health. Fibre helps keep us regular, lower bad cholesterol and prevent overeating due to its role in helping us to feel full.

Three Sisters Soup Recipe

The Three Sisters Soup recipe is a traditional Native American recipe from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) nation. The term “Three Sisters” refers to the three main crops of some North American tribes: maize (corn), squash, and beans. The three plants were planted close together and like close sisters, aided one another in their respective growing processes. This type of ecological cooperation is one that many tribes believe humans should replicate.



2 cups canned white or yellow hominy, drained
2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed & snapped
2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 1/2 cups diced peeled potatoes
5 cups water 1 ½ tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 tsp pepper



Place the hominy, green beans, squash, and potatoes into a pot, and pour in water and chicken bouillon. Bring to a boil

Then reduce heat to low, and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Blend flour into the butter, and then stir into the soup. Increase heat to medium, and cook for 5 more minutes, or until soup thickens.

Season with pepper, and serve.