But What Did They Really Eat? The Three Sisters As Food

MT.PLEASANT, Jane -Cornell University

Intercropped corn, beans, and squash, commonly called the Three Sisters, was a traditional cropping system used by the Haudenosaunee   beginning in the 15th century and continuing into the early 19th century.  While the agronomic characteristics of this system are well known, little attention has been paid to its food value. Could a diet depending largely   on corn, beans, and squash supply the nutritional essentials for a Haudenosaunee community? I examine the food profiles of these three crops, in terms of energy (calories), protein, and some vitamins and minerals.  The quantity of crops harvested largely determines the capacity of this cropping system to meet food needs. But, surprisingly, it also depends on when two of the crops, corn and beans, are harvested.  I then compare the nutritional value of the three crops grown as monocultures with their food values when they are intercropped.  The results are complex, but revealing.