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Three Sisters Stew: A Plant-based Dinner With a Lesson

An Iroquois legend tells of three sisters who sprouted from the body of Sky Woman’s daughter, granting the gift of agriculture to the tribes. The sisters were all different in appearance and in personality. They lived together and helped each other grow and be strong.

Corn, or maize, is the oldest sister. She stands tall in the center and provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles.

Squash is the next sister. She grows over the mound, protecting her sisters from weeds and shades the soil from the sun with her leaves, keeping it cool and moist.

Beans are the third sister. She climbs through squash and then up the corn stalk to bind all together as she reaches for the sun.

Each crop also complements the others in nutritional value:

Maize is high in calories, but relatively low in protein and is missing two critical amino acids. Bean, on the other hand, is a rich source of protein, and has an amino acid that complements maize. (Little known fact, these two together have a complete array of amino acids.) Squash is high in calories, vitamins, and minerals, and its seeds are a good source of protein and oil. Each of these crops does better when planted together than when planted on their own. They each contribute a different characteristic that helps all three of them grow and be strong.


  • 1 large butternut squash, cubed

  • 1 large bag of frozen sweet corn

  • 2 15oz. cans of hominy (drain only 1 can – the liquid in the other should go into the stew as a thickener)

  • 1 large bag of frozen lima beans

  • 1 large sweet onion

  • 2 cups chopped sweet peppers

  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 4 tbsp. cumin

  • 2 tbsp. ground coriander

  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika

  • EVOO

  • Salt to taste

  • 3 quarts (or 2.8 liters) Water or vegetable broth – I tend to mix both


  1. Preheat the oven to 300oF & bake the squash for about 30 minutes or until it begins to soften.

  2. Cover the bottom of a pan (or your crock pot if it’s stove-safe) with some EVOO and sauté the onion, garlic, and peppers until the peppers are translucent.

  3. Transfer everything to the Crock Pot or slow cooker of your choice. Like, all the ingredients. Even the water/veggie broth.

  4. Cook on high for about 4 hours or until your whole house smells like awesome.

  5. Serve with cornbread or a hearty salad (as pictured, recipe coming soon!) and a lecture on the fact that The Three Sisters teach us that everyone has something to offer, everyone brings something different to the table, and that there is strength in diversity.

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