In Season

by Mary Bailey


Corn, beans and squash were some of the first crops domesticated by early Mesoamerican societies, and where I grew up, we learned about the Iroquois planting the three vegetables together, often burying a fish head in the bottom of the hole.

Like sisters do, the plants relied on each other; the beans fixed the nitrogen in the soil and used the corn to climb; the squash prevented weeds, the vines help to retain moisture and ward off insects with their fuzzy/prickly leaves. Southwestern tribes included a fourth sister to attract bees.

The legend is that corn, beans and squash are three sisters who must live together to thrive, and thrive they did, providing fertile soil and a healthy diet for generations (corn and beans create a complete protein when eaten together).

They planted the three sisters this year at the Prairie Urban Farm (without the fish head.)

Build a mound about a foot high and smooth out the top. Plant several corn seeds close together in the centre. Once the corn is six or so inches tall, plant pole beans and squash around the corn, alternating seeds.

Late summer/early fall is a delicious time to eat corn, beans and squash.

grilled zucchini
A mix of yellow and green zucchini looks marvelous. This is an excellent party dish to do ahead and keep warm. Leftovers are tasty in a sandwich.

extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly-cracked pepper
4-6 mid-length (4-5 inches) zucchini cut into long strips or wedges

Whisk together oil, half the juice, zest and seasoning in a large bowl or plastic ziploc bag. Brush zucchini with oil/lemon mixture, or place in the bag and shake to coat zucchini. (Don’t leave in the bag for more than a few minutes or the zucchini will get too soft.)

Place on a medium grill, and grill on one side for about 3-5 minutes to get grill marks. Turn over and cook for about another 5 minutes until the zucchini is soft and starting to brown.

Take off the heat and right before serving, drizzle with the rest of the lemon juice and zest. Season to taste.

Serves 4-6.

green beans with tomatoes, garlic and basil (fagiolini con pomodoro, aglio e basilico)

Enjoy the classic Italian late summer combination of green beans and tomatoes, hot or cold. Adapted from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan.

garlic, chopped (or to taste)
4-6 fresh ripe tomatoes (1 pound) peeled and rough chopped
4 c green beans (approx 1½ pound green beans)
sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
1 C fresh basil leaves

Peel tomatoes by dropping into boiling water for a few minutes. Fish out with a slotted spoon and, when cool enough to handle, slip off the skins, then chop into large chunks.

Sauté the garlic in oil until golden in a large skillet. Add chopped tomatoes, and cook at high heat for about five minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the beans and a shake of salt and pepper. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the beans are done.

Remove the beans and reduce the sauce if watery. Return beans to the skillet, add the basil, taste for seasoning and serve.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

pure prairie corn chowder

Adapted from The Pure Prairie Eating Plan by Dr. Catherine Chan and Dr. Rhonda Bell.

canola oil
1½ c chopped red pepper
1½ c small cauliflower florets
kernels from 2 cobs fresh corn (about 1½ C)
1 c chopped green onions
¼ c low-fat cream cheese
2 c skim milk
1 t ground cumin
½ t salt
½ t black pepper
½ c chopped fresh parsley
2 T sharp cheddar shredded

Heat the oil in a saucepan over med high heat. Add peppers and cauliflower and cook for 8 min or until tender.

Add corn, green onions, cream cheese; stir until cheese melts. Add milk and cook, covered, for about three minutes or until heated through. Do not boil. Stir in cumin and seasoning and ½ the parsley.

Let stand for 10 minutes to combine flavours.

To serve: Spoon into 4 bowls and garnish with the rest of the parsley and the cheddar.

Serves 4.