Three Sisters Stew
A recipe inspired by the traditional Mohawk cuisine.
The Three sisters are the 3 crops that the Mohawk, and the Iroquois (of which Mohawk are part of), cultivated together: squash, beans and corn.
This way of cultivating the land has roots in ancient Iroquois beliefs - where each decision taken in the present should be made so that it positively affects seven generations in the future. For agriculture, this translates into sustainability and stewardship of the land.
Squash, beans and corn are "life supporters" of one another (just think of how beans can use corn stalks as their beanpole, while also strengthening the corn stalk) and cultivating them together makes for a more efficient way of utilizing the soil - as it allows farmers to increase their production with the same arable land.
Interestingly enough, aside from their functional aspect of planting these crops together, the combination of them offers further benefits. Not only do these crops not complete with one another, but they can live in a symbiotic relationship. While corn naturally has high nitrogen needs, beans are able to produce a lot of nitrogen and sustain the corn. Squash spreads on the soil - this helps with preserving moisture and preventing weed growth.
The majority of the Mohawk cuisine revolves around squash, beans and corn. It is common to serve corn bread, soups and stews, cooked in stone fireplaces (stone hearths).
Traditionally, Mohawk use white corn or hominy in their cooking, however don't feel bad if you only have access to yellow corn. Corn (any corn), like beans and squash, are as indigenous to the Americas as the Mohawk. Interestingly enough potatoes, tomatoes and cocoa all are native species of the American - except these come from warmer, Southern regions.
For a stew like ours, moose or elk meat would traditionally be used. Feel free to substitute this with beef or pork.
Artichokes are another traditional Iroquois crop. If fresh or frozen artichoke hearts are available to you, consider adding them to the stew. They go wonderfully with the rest of the ingredients.
Just like in the case of our Inuit inspired recipe, we went with a traditional approach and omitted the bouillon cubes/ broth. Instead, we relied on natural ingredients to give flavor to the dish.
This recipe is part of the 2021 - Week 5 - Indigenous Peoples in Canada Menu. Look under Menus for the other recipes of the series or Subscribe to our mailing list and receive complete weekly menu ideas with everything from the grocery shopping list to all standardized recipes in a menu, as well as an organized Order of Cooking list to save you time in the kitchen.
Download the standardized recipe here: