The Three Sisters (De-o-ha-ko)
The term “The Three Sisters” comes from the Cherokee and Iroquois Indigenous Peoples practice of planting three plants that rely on each other, and help each other grow.
The true form of The Three Sisters consists of Corn, Beans, and Squash. The Squash acts as a groundcover for the crops, preventing weeds, as well as acting as a living mulch, holding in moisture, and keeping the soil cool. The Corn provides a natural trellis for the Beans to grow on. The beans act as a fertilizing agent by converting absorbed nitrogen to nitrates, using Rhizobia bacteria. The three sisters have been a common gardening practice for many centuries.
While the Cherokee and Iroquois were the main users of this method, it is known that at least 15 nations of Indigenous People used this method. It’s a method that has dated back to 1070 AD and still holds true to the best way to grow Corn, Beans, and Squash, no matter where you are in North America.
The Three Sisters represent spirits called De-o-ha-ko, meaning (our sustainers) which brings a beautiful spiritual meaning to this timeless concept of growing.
This practice is still very popular and common even today, especially in the Appalachian hills. My family and I would raise a garden almost every year, and we would use the three sisters’ method. It provided bumper crops to the point that we would call neighbors and friends over to help pick beans! Generational farmers have used this method for many years, and there’s a very good chance that the vegetables on your plate were grown using this method.