7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cherokee Cooking

Susan F. Craft
Author of the Xanthakos Family Trilogy -
The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia

three sisters - corn, beans, squash
         Cherokee culture thrived for thousands of years in what is now the southeastern United States. Cherokee is a distinct culture with its own geography, language, social organization, and spiritual beliefs. There are seven Cherokee clans: Bird, Paint, Wild Potato, Wolf, Blue, Deer, and Long Hair. Historically, Cherokee women were the heads of families and households and were economically powerful. The Cherokee language is not only spoken, but also written using 86 letters developed by Sequoyah.
        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.
wild onions

        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.)

Polk, dla-ya-de-i, harvested in May and late April,
required three changes of water when boiling to
reduce the acid. As polk grows older it becomes
poisonous. The berries are said to be poisonous
as well, but Cherokee basket makers used the
berries for a dye.

Watercress with hot bacon grease poured
over  it was served with beans and corn bread.
Before contact with the settlers, Cherokee meals were one-pot stews made over an open fire. After contact, the tribe began to grow fruit like watermelons and peaches and to eat farm animals like chicken, pigs, and cows.

        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 )


  1. Love the article and recipes. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Lisa. I always enjoy sharing my research.

  2. Love the article and recipes. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Fun to read about this especially since my sister-in-law is native American.

    1. Thank you, Sonja. As many Scots-Irish South Carolinians, my family has some Cherokee ancestors.

  4. Fascinating post, Susan.Growing corn, beans and squash together reveals the agricultural acumen of the Cherokee.

    1. Thank you, Janet. It always fascinates me when we can place a template of science over some past activity and explain scientifically something that the Indians learned from observing and experience.

  5. Susan, your post is very interesting, especially the part about growing corn, beans and squash so close together. Makes a lot of sense.
    My great-great-great grandmother was Native American Indian. We never learned what tribe she was from. So I am always interested in reading and learning about them.
    Blessings, Tina

    1. So pleased you found the post interesting. It's the small, day-to-day activities of the past that fascinate me and I love sharing the information I find when researching.


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