(part one of a three part series)
by Vicki Babcock
There are many legends associated with the “Three Sisters,” a method of crop farming created by our Native Americans. Their basic food sources, corn, beans and squash—the sustainers of life—were planted in a hill together. The corn stalk provided a pole for the beans to climb, and the squash or pumpkin provided cover for the ground, preventing weed growth and helping to hold moisture in the soil. They were seen as three loving sisters, each sustaining the other in their growth. The Indians believed the plants should be grown together, eaten together and celebrated together.
One such legend holds that a medicine woman could no longer tolerate the friction between her three daughters and so called on the Creator to help her find a way to end the fighting. That night she had a dream. In her dream, each daughter was a different seed. The medicine woman planted the seeds in one mound, as they would have lived at home and told each that they must be different but dependent upon each other if they were to grow and thrive. They would need to perceive that each had their own special qualities that set them apart and yet, together provided qualities that benefited each other.
The next morning she cooked each of them an egg, one scrambled, one hard-boiled and one over easy. She told her daughters of her dream and explained that they were like the eggs, each different with different textures and flavors and yet, they were still eggs. She told them that they each had a special place in her heart and in the world. The young women began to cry and the hugged each other. Now they knew they would celebrate their differences and love one another more because of them. And so the practice of planting the crops together began, each representing one of the three sisters, helping and caring for each other.
Corn or maize, one of the three sisters, has its origins in South America and Mexico and has been harvested by the Mayan Indians for millennia. Most historians believe maize was domesticated in the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico and quickly spread (possibly as early as 2500 BC) throughout the Americas. Sweet corn, a mutation of field corn, is eaten in the immature stage and was grown by several Native American tribes. The first recorded sweet corn was given to European settlers, by the Iroquois, in 1779.
Modern Americans look forward to summer celebrations with corn on the cob and, although we’re all familiar with the adage ”knee high by the Fourth of July,” many of us are looking for the popular crop for our Independence Day celebrations. The United States grows about 40 percent of the world’s production, about 332 million metric tons annually. Of that, approximately 40 percent is used to produce bio-fuels.
Corn has surprisingly many health benefits. They include controlling diabetes, prevention of heart ailments and lowering hypertension as well as aiding in the prevention of digestive ailments such as constipation, hemorrhoid and colorectal cancer. It is high in fiber and a rich source of vitamins A, B and E. Corn is a rich source of antioxidants which have been known to be an aid against cancer. Corn, unlike most other vegetables, actually increases the amount of usable antioxidants by cooking.
So belly up to the corn bar but remember—everything in moderation.
1 cup fresh corn kernels, cooked until tender
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Stir together corn, jalapeno, cilantro, and onion. Add olive oil, lime, sugar and salt. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. Frozen corn can be used in place of fresh.
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