Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Three Sisters

Three sisters daily harvest

Bumble asks, “What’s for dinner?”
“You know what I always make this time of year, the Three Sisters Summer Squash Goulash.”
“We’re having your sisters for dinner?”
“No," I tell him, "the three sisters -- the corn, squash, and beans -- the companion planting we did because we were too lazy to construct any kind of pole support for the beans. The three sisters planting which combines corn, squash and beans into a beneficial community. You know the Native Americans introduced the concept. The corn stalks provide the beans with “poles” for climbing, the huge squash leaves shade and retain moisture in the soil, and the beans which are "nitrogen fixers" provide natural fertilizer for all. You've heard the phrase, All for one and one for all!  What a family they are!”
Three sisters in June (a corner section)
“Yo,” replies Bumble - which is what he always says. Besides, I went off on one of my tangents and all he really wanted was the food.
My eclectic haphazard way of growing in the yard makes for a decent variety of plants out there. One of my favorite principles in ecology is that healthy sustainable ecosystems are more biodiverse ecosystems. To put it another way polycultures are preferable to monocultures. And I am a big proponent of mixing it up. If one plant species becomes infected by a pest and doomed, at least the other species may go unscathed. Your sweat and labor will not be for naught – you will have something that may survive and in the end and your stomach will not be empty.  And, if growing certain plants together actually helps them perform better; that's a bonus.  Not to mention, if everyone planted just one squash (or zucchini) plant in their back yard there would be enough food to feed the world. I swear. 
Summer Squash Goulash
 SUMMER SQUASH GOULASH (from the Three Sisters)
1 lb. organically-raised ground meat (use either beef, turkey, chicken or lamb) I sometimes use 1-1/2 lbs. of meat
3 to 4 C. summer squash peeled and diced small (use either yellow squash, zucchini or mix both) and remove center seeds area

1 medium onion diced small
2 cloves fresh garlic minced or smashed
A bunch of fresh basil (several handfuls)
3/4 C. fresh string beans (snapped and halved)
1- 28 oz. can organic diced tomatoes
1/2 C. broth (beef or chicken depending on your meat choice)
Seasonings: salt, pepper, Italian herb seasoning, and about 1/4 -1/2 tsp. nutmeg and cinnamon (trust me)

Brown meat in a large skillet with a touch of olive oil (about 3 T.), salt and pepper while browning. Then add in diced onion - saute a few minutes, then add garlic. Next add summer squash and the rest of the ingredients. Saute a few minutes uncovered. Season to taste with at least a 1 tsp. of salt and Italian herb seasoning; some fresh ground pepper and nutmeg and cinnamon (1/4 tsp. at least). Lower heat, cover and cook until squash and beans are tender (15-20 minutes).  Serve with French bread and corn on the cob (if available). Enough food for 4 Bumbles. Hey, if you don't like or have  string beans leave them out.


Begon, Michael et al. Ecology: Individuals, Populations and Communities. 2nd ed.. Boston: Blackwell Scientific Publications , 1990. 614-844.

Holmgren, David. Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability . 3rd ed. Hepburn, Australia: Holmgren Design Services , 2006. P. 165. Print.


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