The three sisters play a very important roll in Native American culture and foodways. Corn, beans and squash have been planted together and cooked together since ancient times. The beans are planted at the base of the corn, providing a natural trellis, the squash is planted around the corn and beans and the spiny leaves provide protection against predators. The beans in turn give nitrogen back to the soil for her sisters.  

Almost every Native American Nation seems to have its own myths and legends surrounding the three sisters. In each story they are central to our spiritual connection to the earth. My favorite is the legend of the 3 sisters who lived in a field together and loved each other. The eldest was tall and thin with golden hair and a green shawl, the middle sister wandered around the fields, the youngest could only crawl and needed to hold onto someone to stand up. One day in late summer a boy came to the field and they were fascinated with him, that night the youngest disappeared. A few weeks later he returned and this time the middle sister disappeared. The oldest sister was very sad and missed her sisters very much. At harvest time the boy returned and heard her crying so he took her to his home where she was united with her sisters. The sisters had decided to stay with the boy and his family because it was warm in their hut and they had a big pot of soup they were making. The sisters loved the family and dried themselves on a shelf so that they could help feed the family. From that day on, the family was never hungry and the sisters were never separated.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 cup of brown or gold tepary beans
  • 5 cups of veggie, chicken or turkey stock (if making this after Thanksgiving it is a wonderful way to use home made turkey stock)
  • 2 cups of fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup of mesquite dried pima corn soaked overnight (optional) 
  • 1 bunch of fresh sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cumin 
  • 1-2 dried peppers
  • 2 cups of diced squash (We used a combination of yellow and green but acorn squash is lovely in this as well)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • Salt and Pepper
  • (optional) chunks of left over turkey meat

Coat the bottom of a large pot or your instant pot with olive oil and saute the onion until soft but not brown. Add the beans, dried corn, stock, herbs and dried peppers. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour. Add the fresh corn, squash and chopped fresh sage and simmer for another hour until the beans are fully cooked and the flavors have melded. (You could also add everything to a pressure cooker and cook for 45 minutes or in a slow cooker 4-6 hours). remove the sage leaves and dried pepper, season with salt and pepper and serve. 

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