Friday, September 12, 2008

The Littlest Sister in My Garden

Every year is an interesting experience in the vegetable garden. Unlike last year, the melons, squashes, and cucumbers produced rather dismally this year. My poor-performers of last year, beans, did wonderful this year. In truth, more than wonderful. The Seneca, who are the Haudenosaunee people who live in this part of NY State, call corn, beans, and squash “The Three Sisters.” The Seneca name for the Three Sisters is Joh-heh-goh which means “These Things which Sustain Us." The littlest sister, beans, has been quite sustainer in my garden this year. For the very small footprint in my garden dedicated to beans, it has produced many grocery bags full of food.

Pole beans are a climbing, vining variety of bean that need a trellis or poles to climb on. I think they are a good vegetable choice for people with small plots of land since they grow mostly vertical. Poles in the back of a sun-filled garden location along with ample moisture is all that these beans require. In planning your gardens for next year, why not include some veggies such as pole beans? They will surely sustain you as well.

One of my rows of pole beans was the ultimate seed cleanup grab bag. I took 6 – 8 different types of pole beans that I had little bits of and planted a row. That row offered a huge variety in color, flavor and long harvest time. By far the stellar performers in that row were the Kentucky Wonder (H), Purple Podded (H), and Cherokee Trail of Tears (H) beans. All good tasting and highly productive beans. I also enjoyed dedicated rows of Dragon Langerie (H, bush), Red Noodle (OP, long bean), Helda (OP, pole), Goldfield (pole), and Jade (OP, bush) beans. Goldfield is one of the few vegetable varieties that I go out of my way to get each year. It produces flat yellow beans that are 10” long and about an 1” wide which are tasty and tender even at the larger sizes.

Fish Pepper

Some other garden favorites this year include the following.
Note: (H) = Heirloom and (OP) = OpenPollinated

Tomato: Zapotec Pleated (H), Lemon Drop (OP), Red Currant (OP), Thai Pink (H)
Tomatillo: Mexican Strain (OP)
Basil: Siam Queen (Thai type). Tasty and pretty enough for the flower bed.
Pepper: Fish (H). 4 year favorite! It is a beautiful variegated plant with small, striped, tasty hot peppers. Edibile and ornamental!
Calendula: Solis Sponsa (H). Calendula is always in my veggie garden for attracting pollinators as well as medicinal herb use. This is a wonderful orange variety with dark centers.
Lettuce: Reine des Glaces (H)
Fava: Guatemalan Purple (H) - my garden "snack food" that never makes it to the dinner plate. A 5 year favorite.

I suppose I've rambled enough but be sure to check out the links and book sources below for Three Sisters stories and Native American Gardening information.


Sources for Three Sisters and Native American gardening information:

Gaedago:h (In the Garden) by Pearl Henry
Native American Gardening by Gilbert Wilson
Native American Gardening by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
Three Sisters Garden
Cornell Article on Iroquois Three Sisters Gardening
Three Sisters Gardening (including background and plans)
Three Sisters Story