Author of the Xanthakos Family Trilogy -
The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia
|three sisters - corn, beans, squash|
The Cherokee ate mainly corn and beans and squash, called the three sisters, which they grew in their fields.
To get the highest yield of beans possible, the vines need tall poles to grow on, which is why they were planted next to the corn. The corn's tall straight stalks were perfect for the climbing vines of the bean plants. In turn, the beans’ roots captured nitrogen from the air and enriched the soil, ideal for the corn which needs nitrogen rich soil to produce a large crop. Squash send out very long, winding vines, have large leaves, and like to stay close to the ground. Planted in between the rows of corn and beans, they acted as an edible ground cover, which not only kept the weeds away, but also provided shade for the corn's shallow roots. They helped keep the ground moist, which helped the beans grow, which helped the corn grow higher, which made for longer bean vines and yields, and so on.
The three plants play a large part in many Native American myths and legends. The Cherokee believed that, since the plants were special when grown together, they should also be eaten together. They also believed that since they protected each other while growing, they would protect whoever ate them.
The Cherokee also ate deer, birds, squirrels, groundhogs, rabbits, fish, crawdads (crayfish), and turtles. They did not live entirely from farming and got much of their food from gathering foods such as: wild greens, wild onions, polk, mushrooms, ramps, nuts, green cone flower, watercress, huckleberries (blueberries), and blackberries. (Tea made from the huckleberry leaves was used for dysentery.)
|Watercress with hot bacon grease poured |
over it was served with beans and corn bread.
In my Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile, my heroine travels with a group of Cherokee. One in particular, Golden Fawn, prepares a meal for them. Here’s the excerpt:
That evening they dined on roasted squirrel and trout along with sweet bread Golden Fawn made from cornmeal mush wrapped in green corn husks and baked next to the glowing coals. Andrew could not seem to get enough of the spongy bread, eating his portion and half of Lilyan’s.
The Xanthakos Family Trilogy spans from 1780-1836 and from the Blue Ridge Mountains, to Charleston, SC, and the NC Outer Banks. (The Chamomile; Laurel; Cassia )