New world foods were a wonder to the explorers and colonists that first came to these shores. One of the many things they had to learn to survive here was the concept of planting fish into the ground to act as fertilizer since there were no large animals to produce the manure they were used to using. Native Americans kindly showed the settlers the concept of Three Sisters: corn, squash and beans planted together in the same hillock with a fish at the bottom for nutrients. The corn stalk would grow tall, giving the beans a place to climb. The beans would fix nitrogen into the soil. The squash planted around the base would shade the roots with their big leaves and help to retain moisture. This practice created a symbiotic arrangement that produced a healthy environment for all three plants to survive.
In teaching my Living History classes, I always do one class as a Feast Class, introducing the foods from the time period and region that we are studying to the class. I have always felt that we can learn much more about a time period and people by what they ate than by a timeline of warfare. This quarter, we’re studying Explorers, Pirates and Colonizers. We had our Treasures of the New World Feast this past week, and I prepared my Three Sisters Salad for the class.
Three Sisters Salad
4 ears fresh corn on the cob
1 can pinto beans (preferably organic)
1 1/2 cup medium butternut squash, cubed
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat a griddle or cast iron pan with no oil. Shuck the fresh corn and roast on the hot iron until done. This should produce grill marks on about half of the corn kernels. Cut the corn off of the cob and reserve.
Peel, seed and cube the butternut squash. Toss in oil and roast in a 350 degree oven until just tender. Do not let them overcook or they will mush into the salad. Cool and reserve.
Open the can of pinto beans and rinse thoroughly.
Cut the tomatoes into medium dice, or if using cherry or grape tomatoes, cut them in half or quarters.
Combine the corn, squash, beans and tomatoes. Add the vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper and toss. Adjust seasonings to taste. Allow to refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld. Serve alongside some Green Turkey Chili and some fresh tortillas to complete your New World experience!