This week, the fourth and fifth graders prepared Three Sisters Stew from the Chickasaw Nation, which today is located in Oklahoma. The Three Sisters refers to the Native American tradition of planting corn, beans, and squash together. The corn provides a structure for the pole beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen to the other plants, and the squash plant’s low, broad leaves prevent the growth of weeds, provide moisture retention for the soil, and its prickly vines ward off pests. Whereas last week’s class focused on the diet of the Ohlone, who were predominantly hunter gatherers, this week we talked about largely agrarian societies like the Chickasaw. Several Native American tribes developed the Three Sisters method of companion planting over thousands of years.
Students started by sautéing onions with freshly minced garlic. They added cut-up summer and winter squash, red potatoes, and pre-cooked Cannellini beans and barley. Our homemade vegetable stock contained beet greens, which gave the stew a beautiful deep red color. While the vegetables were cooking in the stock, we set the table, then garnished the finished stew with fresh herbs from the Harvey Milk school garden. What we love most about the fourth and fifth grade classes is how focused they are on the many kitchen jobs we have and how strong the curricular connections are between what they have studied in the past and what they’re experiencing with all their senses in the kitchen classroom.