Three Sisters stew is filled with the protein, fiber, and vitamins that are necessary to keep the body strong for homesteading or survival homesteading chores. This ancient Iroquois recipe was created to make use of every last ounce of a bountiful harvest from their traditional garden guild growing methods.
The Three Sister Garden provides all of the base ingredients needed for the stew. While there are some slight variations due to regionally available ingredients of the recipe, they are all formulated around the same Iroquois survival crops: corn, squash, and beans.
The Iroquois tribe creation story revolves around growing these three base crops in a volcano-shaped mound to develop the ultimate companion planting guild.
The squash provides moisture retention to help the beans and corn grow, while smothering weeds with their thick vines. The spikes on the vines also help to deter crawling, and in some cases, even flying destructive insects from eating the growing groceries.
Squash is a potent source of both vitamin A and fiber.
The corn provides a sturdy and natural trellis for the beans to grow upon. It is a crop rich in both essential amino acids and carbohydrates, a necessary part of any healthy and well-balanced diet.
This protein rich crop swirls and winds around corn stalks, protecting them from high winds. The bean plants infuse nitrogen back into the soil, helping the corn plants mature, and produce a quality yield come harvest time.
Sometimes, especially on ranches in western states, venison, buffalo, beef, or pork is added to the Three Sisters soup. Native Americans also likely added meat to their survival soup when it was available. To make the Three Sisters soup more like a stew, which might be desirable if adding meat to the recipe, cut the vegetable stock amount by about one-quarter.
Three Sisters Garden Stew Recipe
- 30 ounces tomatoes diced
- 2 cups white corn cooked
- 2 cups butternut acorn, summer, or winter squash (peeled and cubed)
- 15 ounces beans green, pinto, or kidney beans are often used in this recipe
- 32 ounces vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup onion chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon of basil
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- ½ of a cup of carrots diced
- 1 cup parsnips cubed
- 1 pinch salt and pepper or to taste
- Warm the olive oil in a large cook pot over medium heat for a 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add in the onions, garlic, and celery. Stir to completely combine.
- Sautee all of the ingredients in the cook pot for 10 minutes on low heat. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching.
- Sprinkle in the cumin, basil, salt, and pepper. Stir all of the new ingredients to ensure they are thoroughly combined.
- Stir in the tomatoes, parsnips, carrots, and squash.
- Simmer the mix until tender on low heat – approximately 60 minutes.
- Add in the beans and cooked corn – you can also used traditional hulled corn in this recipe.
- Pour in the vegetable stock broth.
- Stir thoroughly, and then simmer for 15 minutes – still over low heat.
- Turn off the stove and allow the stew to cool enough to either eat or store.
If you searched online for only a brief amount of time you would find multiple more variations of the Three Sisters stew recipe. This recipe just happens to be my family’s personal favorite. If you’re looking for the traditional Three Sisters soup recipe, you can find it here.
There truly is no right or wrong way to make it, as long as the three base ingredients remain corn, squash, and beans.
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day, raising chickens, goats, horses, and tons of vegetables. She’s an expert in all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping, and many more.