Three Sisters Succotash

Sufferin’ Succotash! (I just like to say that.)

Sylvester aside, when I think of succotash, I picture a bad cafeteria steamer filled with a blend of frozen peas and carrots.

Then I saw an episode of Chow’s Go To Dishes where Jonathan Waxman made a succotash that looked amazing.

So when Papa Bird’s corn ripened at the same time as the zucchini and green beans, I had to give it a try! It turns out it is so simple and so yummy. This is a dish that truly tastes much better than it sounds, so I had to share it here. The quality of your succotash will be directly related to quality of the vegetables you use. Because the recipe is flexible and you can use any vegetables you have on hand, it is an ideal recipe for backyard garden bounty. Our tomatoes weren’t ready last month when we made this, but they would also be great in it. Our garden gave us corn, green beans, zucchini, onions and cilantro, so that’s what went in. :)

three sisters succotash

Corn is notoriously difficult to grow organically, but Papa Bird had good luck this year growing corn with summer squash and green beans, following the Iroquois tradition of the Three Sisters. Since I’m one of three sisters, I’m kind of fond of the idea. Renee’s Garden has a nice article on the legend of “three inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together…

Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of the plot by providing nitrogen to the following years corn. Bean vines also help stabilize the corn plants, making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. Shallow-rooted squash vines become a living mulch, shading emerging weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating, thereby improving the overall crops chances of survival in dry years. Spiny squash plants also help discourage predators from approaching the corn and beans.”

Three Sisters Succotash Recipe

Adapted from: Calabacitas Con Elote by Fork Fingers Chopsticks

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 4 cups zucchini, diced (aim for about 1 inch thick pieces; too small and they will turn to mush)
  • 1 1/2 cups corn, cut fresh off the cob
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, cut into ¾ inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large hot skillet or wok, sauté zucchini in coconut oil. Allow to cook evenly for 3 minutes, turning occasionally to prevent over cooking. Add the corn, green beans and onions, stirring and sautéing for another 5 minutes so that the zucchini begins to soften and barely turn golden. The zucchini should be slightly crisp. Add the water and cover with a lid at any point if anything is starting to burn, and after a few minutes in any case. Simmer on medium heat covered for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Cook for an additional 3 – 5 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked but slightly al dente. Serve hot.

Tips for cooking for baby:

You can reserve some for baby before adding the cumin and cilantro if he/she has not yet had spices or herbs, but don’t be afraid of introducing them, either! Puree the succotash or grind in a small food mill and add a good amount of breast milk or water. Baby Bird at 8 months liked it soupy with a lot of milk.


Use any vegetables you have fresh and in season! I don’t ever follow a recipe to the letter, more as inspiration and structure. Try adding tomatoes, garlic, chile peppers, etc.

We added leftover chicken to the succotash the second day for a complete meal.

3 responses to “Three Sisters Succotash

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