The French called them Iroquois, but really, they were comprised of six different Native tribes: Mohawks, Oneida, Onadaga, Cayuga, Senega and Tuscarora. All have their own version of the same story:
Once upon a time very long ago, there were three sisters who lived together in a field. They each looked different but they loved each other very much.
The youngest always wore green and, at first, could only crawl. As she grew older, she learned to climb.
The second wore a frock of yellow or orange and she had a way of running off by herself when the sun shone.
The oldest sister stood tall and proud, guarding her siblings. She wore a pale green shawl, and had long, yellow silky hair that tossed about in the breeze.
Their names were Bean, Squash and Corn.
Native peoples learned that when these three sisters were planted in a large mound, they grew stronger together. Theirs was a symbiotic relationship. They nurtured each other’s roots and protected each other from enemies that wanted to nibble on their fruit or leaves.
Sometimes, they were even guarded by Sunflowers, which are only placed in the north, so as not to interfere with the sunlight.
If you have a plot or balcony that is big enough, the three sisters are a beautiful complement in a small space.
If you are planting with kids, Karin Roth recommends using popcorn seeds, fire beans and summer squash. This site, by Cornell University, explains the history behind this complementary planting and offers step-by-step instructions in how to do it.
Illustration by Laura Munteanu
Laura is a Zurich based illustrator and mother of a teenage daughter. She enjoys writing poetry and short stories, and often asks her husband to proofread them. You can see her going for her daily walks in the nearby forest, though she would sometimes prefer the colourful streets of District 4. You can find Laura on Instagram here: @inthecompanyofhumans