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“Three Sisters” Squash, Corn, & Black Bean Salad

Three Sisters Squash, Corn Black Bean Salad

You’ll notice that we are starting our newsletter article with the recipe for the month. This will make more sense after you read this interesting article. We even include a history lesson with this article too.

Next Spring, consider planting your own “Three Sister’s Garden” and next fall you can enjoy the garden’s bounty from your own garden.


Beth and Mary Beth

“Three Sisters” Squash, Corn, & Black Bean Salad

4 Servings



  • 2 1/2 cups diced butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh (about 2 ears), frozen, or canned
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 15 ounces 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 juice of 1 lime
  • 4 ounces queso fresco (can substitute feta), crumbled or diced
  • 1 tsp Pepper to taste 


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss the butternut squash and the corn kernels with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, along with the salt and chili powder. Spread the seasoned veggies in a thin layer over a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25-35 minutes, until golden, tossing halfway through.
  2. While the veggies are baking, cook wild rice according to package instructions, then drain off any excess water.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked wild rice with the roasted corn and squash. Add the black beans, pepper, lime juice, and queso fresco, along with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning (salt and pepper) if necessary.
  5. Divide into 4 portions and serve warm or chilled.
Nutrition Facts

Per serving: Calories: 470; Total Fat: 15 g; Saturated Fat: 5 g; Total Carbohydrate: 69 g; Total Sugars: 7 g (Added, 0 g); Dietary Fiber: 13 g; Protein: 20 g; Sodium: 530 mg; Potassium: 1004 mg; Calcium: 253 mg; Vitamin D: 1 mcg; Iron: 4 mg

Recipe adapted from Oldways ( Courtesy of Tufts University.

Did you know that corn, beans, and squash are called the “three sisters?” A number of Native Americans always inter-planted this trio because they thrive together, much like three inseparable sisters.

The Three Sisters Garden

By the time European settlers arrived in America in the early 1600s, the Iroquois had been growing the “three sisters” for over three centuries. The vegetable trio sustained the Native Americans both physically and spiritually. In legend, the plants were a gift from the gods, always to be grown together, eaten together, and celebrated together.

Each of the sisters contributes something to the planting. Together, the sisters provide a balanced diet from a single planting.

  • As older sisters often do, the corn offers the beans needed support.
  • The beans, the giving sister, pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three.
  • As the beans grow through the tangle of squash vines and wind their way up the cornstalks into the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together.
  • The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist and preventing weeds.
  • The prickly squash leaves also keep away raccoons and other pests, which don’t like to step on them.

Together, the three sisters provide both sustainable soil fertility as well as a healthy diet. Perfection!

Tips for Growing the Three Sisters or “Companion Gardening”

  • Try them in your garden, in spring, by adding fish scraps or wood ash to increase fertility, if desired.
  • Make a mound of soil about a foot high and four feet wide.
  • When the danger of frost has passed plant the corn in the mound. Sow six kernels of corn an inch deep and about ten inches apart in a circle of about 2 feet in diameter.
  • When the corn is about 5 inches tall, plant four bean seeds, evenly spaced, around each stalk. About a week later, plant six squash seeds, evenly spaced, around the perimeter of the mound.
  • Don’t plant all the seeds at the same time- the corn won’t be strong enough to support the beans!

By Catherine Boeckman


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