As the weather heats up, gardens across the country are blooming with plenty. Gardens not only provide amazing summer harvests, but they also act as a place to gather and learn traditions.
In Washington D.C., First Lady Michelle Obama has been busy working her own garden plots. Obama recently invited a group of Native American children to the White House garden to help plant what is known as the “three sisters”—corn, beans and squash. They also harvested veggies including lettuces, rhubarb, chard, kohlrabi, sugar snap peas, turnips, broccoli and herbs for the White House state dinner.
“Today’s a big day for us in the garden because it’s the first time we’re going to use native seeds of corn, beans and squash in the way they’ve been planted for thousands of years,” Obama said. “We’re all pretty excited to continue this tradition. This is another example of a fun, easy way that we all can work together to be healthier.”
Growing a "three sisters" garden is a traditional Native American planting technique that provides both healthy food for the people and healthy soil for the crops. It’s a primary example of organic farming at its best. According to Iroquois legend, the three sisters are inseparable and only grow and thrive together.
“The corn gives the beans something to grow on; the beans provide nitrogen for the soil and the squash blocks sunlight and prevents weeds,” according to an Associated Press story about the garden.
The three sisters are also a nutritional complement to one another, serving as a basis for the traditional American stew, succotash. Corn is a carbohydrate that goes well with beans, which are naturally rich in protein. The beans offer an important amino acid missing in the corn. Squash is full of vitamins and also offers healthy fat in its seeds.
Renee’s Garden, a seed company, offers a three sister mix so home gardeners can create their own living history garden and practice sustainable garden methods.
“The large amount of crop residue from this planting combination can be incorporated back into the soil at the end of the season, to build up the organic matter and improve its structure, “ wrote Alice Formiga on the Renee’s Garden website.
The focus on fresh, homegrown foods is in line with Obama’s recent launch of Let’s Move! in Indian Country, an anti-obesity campaign aimed at reducing obesity in young American Indians and Alaska Natives.
About one in three Native American children are overweight or obese by age 5, according to the White House.
Suzanne Boothby is a Brooklyn-based wellness writer, certified health coach and co-founder of New York Family Wellness. Visit www.suzanneboothby.com to learn more.
Edited by Alison Stanton