Our recipes and stories, delivered.

In The Family
Who are Mexico’s Three Sisters?

These essential ingredients aren’t just good eating—they’re ingenious agriculture.

North America’s three sisters aren’t people; they’re crops. Corn, beans, and squash, to be exact, plants that form the bedrock of the indigenous American diet. Besides good taste and obvious nutritional benefits, the three sisters were a critical fixture of Native American life because of how well they grew together.

When planted in a single field, each crop supports one another to develop an ingeniously effective organic ecosystem: beans return nitrogen to the soil, helping the other plants grow; corn stalks give bean vines natural poles to climb; and squash spread out along the ground, preventing weeds from popping up. The three sisters growing method began in pre-Columbian Mexico and spread as far as Iroquois groups in the Northeast, and it’s still practiced to this day. Brilliant agriculture—and delicious.

For more TASTE Food Questions, subscribe to our podcast TASTE Daily on Apple iTunes and Spotify. It’s also free to add to your Alexa flash briefings. Just add the TASTE Daily Skill

Max Falkowitz

Max Falkowitz is a food and travel writer for The New York Times, Saveur, GQ, New York magazine’s Grub Street, and other outlets. He’s also the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook with Helen You.