Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Three Sisters in the San Joaquin Valley

image Here’s how the Three Sisters planting works:  Corn (Golden Bantam Yellow Sweet) is a support for climbing beans. The beans (Borlotto Solista) fix nitrogen in the soil for the high feeding requirements of corn and squash. The squash (Lemon) provides mulch and root protection for the corn and beans. After cooperating beautifully in the garden, corn and beans form a complete protein when eaten together.  I don’t know much about the nutrition junk; but I do know that I love corn, enjoy beans, and like squash.  Seems like a good idea so I’m giving it a try.  The corn is up.  The beans are up.  The squash just busted through the soil.  I bet pumpkin was the squash of choice and an other variety of bean was used but I’m simply using what I have.  Looks like I may be a successful squaw in the garden this summer.

DSC_2503_6356 Lemon Squash

The Iroquois believed 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" made up the tale of Three Sisters planting. 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.  The only ritual I have is keeping the soil moist.

Iroquois were from the other side of the continent.  Yokuts lived in the San Joaquin Valley and up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  They didn’t have corn, nor beans, nor squash.  Acorns dominated their diet.  In elementary school we had field trips to Pioneer Village to watch an ancient Yokut woman grind acorns and weave baskets.  I don’t know if any Yokuts continue to conduct education at Pioneer Village; but I do know that the local casinos are pretty successful.  I do know that corn, beans, and squash are grown successfully here in the Valley; so I suspect the Three Sisters methods just might work.  I’m not taking much of a gamble.image


dorothy said...

The Madera Master Gardeners have named their new demonstration garden "The Three Sisters Garden" after the Native American custom of interplanting those crops. I will look forward to seeing updates on your sisters!

Kaytee said...

Great post. I learned all this in my college botany class, and I'll be planting the "three sisters" this year. Did you plant all three seeds at the same time?


*dorothy - Are you a Master Gardener? I would like to see photos of the demonstration garden if you have access.

*Kaytee - The corn and beans were planted together. The squash was planted a few weeks later. Do you know of a different/preferred schedule?

dorothy said...

Hi Maybelline, I am a Fresno Master Gardener but we collaborate with the Madera Master Gardeners. I will look for photos. Their demonstration gardens are on the community college campus. Sat is their annual garden tour and I plan to go and will take photos if we get to their 3 Sisters Garden and will post!

The Sage Butterfly said...

Thanks for all the great info...that was great!

Lisa Paul said...

The Navaho had reverence for The Three Sisters and planted them regularly. Arizona isn't too far away from you, so I'm sure they'll do well in Bakersfield.