The Three Sisters: Beans

Did you know…

There are over a 1000 varieties of beans in the world!
Activities: Bean soup and Grow a bean plant

When you are in the mood for a bowl of hearty soup, this is the one you will want make over and over again! Three different cooking methods have been included in the instructions below.  

Here’s what you will need:

Note: If you are planning to do the next activity – grow a bean plant, please remove one or two of the largest beans from the bag before you begin this recipe.
1 lb package dried mixed beans
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
3 carrots, cut into 1/2″ slices
2 stalk of celery with leaves, cut into 1/2″ slices
1-3 lbs pork neck bones
1 tsp basil
3 bay leaves
8 cups chicken broth
Preparing the beans:
To prepare the beans, rinse with cool water and remove stones before soaking overnight in a large bowl.
In the morning, pour beans and remaining water through a colander and rinse beans once more. Setting aside to drain.
When the soup is ready, serve with homemade cornbread and fresh butter.
Stove top method:
Saute the onions and mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat. When the onions become translucent, add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, and stir. When the liquid comes to a boil, stir, reduce heat to low, and put the lid on. Stir occasionally so that sticking does not occur. When the largest beans are soft and tender (about 1:30-2 hours), the soup is ready.
Slow cooker method:
Saute onions in a little olive oil until translucent and then add them to a slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients. Cook on low until largest beans are soft and tender and serve. Cooking time: about 6-8 hours.
Pressure cooker method:
Saute the onions and mushrooms in olive oil on medium heat. When the onions become translucent, add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, and stir. After checking to make sure cooker is in good working order, put the lid on securely. When the pressure begins to build and the regulator starts to rock or release steam, reduce the heat to low and allow to cook for 25 – 30 minutes at 15 lbs of pressure. When the timer rings, allow the pressure to reduce naturally before removing lid. If the largest beans are not soft and tender, simmer soup with the lid off until they the are.
Note: The neck bones add flavor and salt to the soup, but you may feel that more is needed, please add salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe makes approximately 8 -10 cups of soup.
Activity 2: Grow a bean plant
To do this project you will need:
2 large beans such as Lima beans
1 small plate
paper towel – folded into quarters
butter knife
diagram of bean plant – scroll down on page for diagram
magnifying glass – optional
small planter filled with soil – optional
What to do:
Soak beans overnight in a bowl of water, then put the beans between the folds of a wet paper towel and check on it a couple of times a day. If the paper towel gets a little dry, add a little more water to keep the towel wet, not soaked. Do this until you see the first root, called the tap root, coming out of the bottom of the bean. Continue to keep the paper towel moist until you start to see the first leaves shooting out of the top of the bean. Once your leaves get to be an inch long, it is time to open one of the beans up and see what’s going on inside. Use the diagram to locate all the parts of the plant and a magnifying glass to get a closer look at the inside of the bean.
Take pictures, draw what you see, take notes, and/or record the whole experience with sound so you can watch it later or share it with someone else!
Optional Activity:
Plant the second bean in soil, put it in a sunny window and watch it grow. Continue to water it when the soil feels a little dry.
You can make this project more interesting by building a bean maze for your plant!
How many different types of dry beans can you identify? How many have you tried?
Learn more:
Learn about different types of dry beans, what they look and what each can be substituted for
Printable bean diagram – labeled

Bean Plant Activities
Kean University offers bean activity pages that include labeled parts.

Instructions to make
a pole bean tee-pee hide-away for young children

Bean Resources on Funschooling & Recreational Learning

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The Three Sisters: Corn

Cornbread with homemade butter by Fran W.
Did you know…
“Maize” is another name for corn!
Corn comes in a variety of colors such as: red, blue, white, yellow, purple, pink and black!

Activity: Cornbread with fresh butter

Native Americans ground corn into meal and made breads and flat cakes with it. Here is a delicious cornbread recipe that you can try.

To make this delicious cornbread, you will need:
4 T butter, melted
1 c buttermilk
1 large egg
1 c creamed corn
1 c yellow cornmeal
3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T plus 1 tsp baking powder
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Place a 9″ pan or cast iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes, when you remove it, coat the pan, including the sides, with 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
  • Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, buttermilk and the egg into a blender and turn it on high speed until all the ingredients are mixed well – about 20-30 seconds.
  • Place all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the creamed corn and the contents of the blender into the well. Stir until smooth and then pour the batter into the prepared pan or skillet.
  • Bake cornbread in the center of a 450 degree oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until the cornbread turns golden brown and a toothpick, inserted in the center, comes out clean. Allow cornbread to stand for 15 minutes before serving with freshly made butter. Refrigerate unused cornbread.
Make your own butter
While you’re waiting for the cornbread to bake, make some fresh butter!

What to do: 

Add 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream, a dash of salt and a clean marble to a clean plastic container. Put a tight fitting lid on the container and shake vigorously until the heavy cream separates and a ball of butter is formed. This can take 5 minutes or more, but don’t stop once you begin. Pour off the liquid (called buttermilk) that separates from butter solids, remove the marble, knead the ball with a spoon to remove more of the buttermilk and enjoy your homemade butter on warm cornbread right away.

Tip: If you like sweeter butter, make homemade honey butter by mixing a teaspoon or two of honey into your fresh butter. A dash of cinnamon can be added too!

Note: Retain the buttermilk and use it in another baked item or drink it.
Do not try to store the butter for more than a day or two using this process, if you would like to keep homemade butter longer, check out these directions to learn how.

Question of the day:
Native Americans used every part of an ear of corn to make different items.
What kind of things did the Native American’s make out of ears of corn?
This would include: The husk, silk, kernels, and cob.
Learn more:
Find out the nutritional value and health benefits of corn.
Activities that are corn related.
Learn about the history of corn.

Find out how ever part of an ear of corn can be used.

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The Three Sisters: Introduction

2009 US coin
featuring Three Sisters
Did you know…

Native Americans called corn, beans, and squash the “three sisters”!

Do you know the “three sisters”?

The first sister is corn, she grows tall and strong and helps the second sister, bean, by allowing her vines to climb up her stalk. In return, bean gives corn the nutrients she needs to grow. Squash is the third sister and she grows low to the ground, throughout the corn field. Her large leaves help to keep the weeds under control and the soil moist.

Three Sisters Mat by Fran W

The “Three Sisters” mat

Here is an activity that will help put the “three sisters” together in a creative
You will need:

Dry beans, pumpkin shapes , 1 fresh ear of corn, non-toxic paint in red, yellow, green and blue, a foam brush for each color, a flat plate or a foam tray, glue, a large piece of white construction paper, a regular-sized piece of orange construction paper, and scissorsOptional items: A wide roll of clear contact paper, and a piece of cardboard the size of the white construction paper

What to do:
  1. Pour non-toxic paint on a flat plate or a foam tray and paint the corn kernels with the foam brushes or clean fingers, then roll the painted cob all over the white construction paper to make corn prints.
  2. When the paint dries, glue a pumpkin shape to each corner of the page and then glue dry beans along the edge between the pumpkins.
Note: When you are finished with the corn cob, it can be washed well and composted or given to outside animals.
Optional step: When the mat is finished, it can be glued to a piece of cardboard to make it sturdy. When everything dries, the whole mat can be carefully covered with clear contact paper so it can be wiped clean and used again.
Tip: When applying the contact paper, try to get it as close to the beans as possible so that the air bubbles do not to take away from the final product.
How to make the pumpkins….
Draw your own pumpkins on orange paper and cut them out, purchase foam pumpkins from the craft store, or make a stamp or pattern with this pumpkin template.

How to use the mat….

Depending on how the beans are placed, this mat can be used as a table setting, as a mat for a centerpiece, or as a wall decoration.

Question of the day:
The 3 sister are an example of, “companion planting”.
What is companion planting and how is it done?
Learn more:
General information about the “three sisters”
General information about companion planting
Easy instruction for growing a “three sisters” garden
Find out what plants work together to deter pests from invading your garden
This is family-based curriculum written with young children in mind – It can be found on Universal Preschool

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