Native American Thanksgiving
November 12, 2020
As Thanksgiving approaches, we began to consider what we could do to add something a little different to our Thanksgiving table and the Green Cart holiday menu. Over the past few months, I've been experimenting with new recipes from Native American cuisine. It has been a wonderful learning experience that has made me appreciate, even more, the cultural respect native people have for their environment. Their use of seasonal and indigenous produce has given me another way to add to our ever-expanding menu. I have loved cooking with ingredients that I know have been used by native people for generations; since before the birth of our country! Whether from the eastern woodlands, the great plains or the southwestern deserts, each tribe offers us something wonderful. As a plant-based chef I've been focusing on the “gathering” and gardening traditions rather than the hunting and fishing customs. And it was there I found a wealth of new dishes.
What I have continued to discover is that all Native American tribes have always relied on the ecosystems in which they live not only for food but also for medicine and spiritual practices. As an aspiring herbalist I am extremely interested in any way I can incorporate native herbs and plants into my kitchen and medicine cabinet. However, something I didn't consider when studying native cuisine was how much it would influence my garden practices. In American Indian cooking tradition, the Three Sisters, corn, beans and squash, are the cornerstone of many dishes. The compelling aspect of these ingredients for me is how they were grown. Three sisters planting makes use of “interplanting” for a thriving crop. Corn is the support sister for the trio. Pole beans climb the stalks and add nitrogen to the soil which benefits the other two plants. Squash is planted around the other two and offers its big leaves as a form of living mulch. It provides shade, maintains moisture and helps with weed prevention. The pole beans hold the delightful tangle together. This growing combination provides an excellent harvest and the basis for many delicious meals. Needless to say, I can't wait to “sister” plant in my vegetable garden next spring!
I will be serving traditional three sister stew this Thanksgiving holiday along with a number of other indigenous dishes. Wild rice salad with local cranberries and quinoa tossed with sweet potato and apples will grace the table as well. Succotash, a classic combination of lima beans and corn, makes a hearty side too. Of course, all types of native squash can be roasted and topped in a myriad of ways. Our favorite is acorn squash with maple glaze. Another great side is carnival squash filled with cornbread and wild onion stuffing. It is both colorful and delicious! So, as we prepare for Thanksgiving, I hope everyone will get a chance to introduce at least one new dish their holiday tradition this year. If you don't feel like cooking it yourself, call Green Cart, we have a great variety from which to choose. How wonderful would it be if we all added a bit of Native American fare to our table to honor those who understood this land we love so well.
Wishing all our family and clients a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving!