The Three Sisters: Cooking Iroquois-Inspired Succotash

This week, I got to share another of my favorite Native American recipes with Trevor's fifth grade class: succotash. This is a great recipe to make in the classroom because it is very forgiving and doesn't require too much tending or attention. Bonus points that the ingredients are pretty inexpensive and it's healthy!

--> I started the lesson with an explanation of The Three Sisters:
The Iroquois and other Natives planted beans, squash and corn together. These three plants are known as the Three Sisters. The strength of the sturdy corn stalks supports the twining beans. The shade of the spreading squash vines traps moisture for the other crops. The bean roots capture important nutrients needed by the corn. Each plant grows better when with its Sisters.

The Three Sisters are known to the Iroquois as the "sustainers of life" and are considered to be special gifts from the Creator. There are many legends about the Three Sisters. These Sisters should be planted together, eaten together and celebrated together.
Then we started the succotash. 


Iroquois-Inspired Succotash 

                       3 slices of bacon*                          2 cups corn kernels
                       1 onion, chopped                          2 cups canned white beans
                       2 cups summer squash, cubed       1 cup water
                       salt and pepper

Chop the raw bacon into pieces and put them into a pot. Heat on high to render the fat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the rest of the vegetables, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot.

Cook over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Makes approximately 8 cups of succotash.

*The Iroquois of the 1600's would have likely used bear meat or other wild game in their stew, not cured pork. Meat is not necessary in this recipe. If you prefer a vegetarian succotash, skip the bacon and use 2 T. vegetable oil to cook the onion. 


While our succotash cooked, the kids worked in groups to share knowledge about Native tribes from different regions of the US. A third of the class studied the Iroquois of the northeastern woodlands, while the other groups learned about the Haida of Alaska and the Sioux of the Great Plains.

We watched this interesting slide show about the Haida. Then we did an art project inspired by the Sioux people of the Great Plains. I'll share that next week. 

Here's our succotash. By serving it in foam cups, it stayed nice and toasty. The kids could use the fork to eat the veggies, then drink the remaining broth. 

Trevor's teacher loved it. Pretty much everyone did, including Trevor, who got to have extra helpings after school. 

And now that he knows how to prepare it, I'll be expecting Trevor to make us succotash for dinner sometime soon.


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