Traditional Healthy Eating at Crawford Lake: The Three Sisters Soup

Three Sisters Garden
Pre-contact Healthy Living

In pre-contact times, many First Nations enjoyed active lifestyles, along with traditional healthy diets. They consumed a variety of nutritious foods that they cultivated themselves. The Iroquoian people, who would’ve resided in the Crawford Lake area, would have eaten crops, and also collected food in the wild, and also hunted game, including: deer, fish, nuts, and fruits. The Iroquoian people sweetened their food with natural sugars like maple sugar. Surprisingly, maple sugar is full of nutrients like manganese, riboflavin, and zinc.

For Iroquoian people, the main food crops included beans, squash, and corn. In fact, ancient corn pollen at the bottom of Crawford Lake led scientists and researchers to the discovery that pre-contact First Nations groups did once live in this area.

The Three Sisters

Beans, squash, and corn are known as the Three Sisters, or the three sustainers of life. They thrive when grown together. Bean plants fix nitrogen in the soil and stabilize the roots of the corn stalks. The corn stalks support the bean vines, lifting the vines to the sun. The large leaves of the squash plants provide shade for the roots, and control the spread of weeds. Squash also discourage pests from eating away at the roots of all three plants. The pre-contact groups used companion, eco-friendly, planting techniques long before companion planting even had a name to the concept!

Lastly, the Three Sisters are nutritional complements. Beans are high in protein; corn provides carbohydrates; and, squash contains vitamins and minerals like vitamins A and C, magnesium, and potassium. You can visit the Three Sisters Garden, part of the Games of Kanata program, at Crawford Lake.

Here is a healthy living recipe for Three Sisters Soup you can cook at home:

Three Sisters Soup


5 cups of water

2 cups of corn

2 cups of beans

2 cups of cubed squash

2 tablespoons of flours (traditionnaly cattail root flour but others can be used)


Combine corn, beans, squash, and water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the squash is soft. Add flour and any other seasonings you might like. Increase the heat to medium, and simmer for five minutes until the soup has thickened. Serve. Feel free to add your favourite vegetables and seasonings!

Crawford lake gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada and the Community Celebration Fund for their support of this project.

Crawford lake gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada and the Community Celebration Fund for their support of this project.


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