Time in the kitchen and in New Mexico made us aware of the three sisters.
Arriving at Plymouth, Massachusetts in December of 1620, the Pilgrims had little or no experience of farming. They brought no tools for fishing, nor did they have hunting skills or experience, which in Europe was restricted to the aristocracy. As religious and political immigrants, they embraced hard work and rejected any help from England. During their first winter, half of the 102 immigrants perished. Yet, within a generation, Pilgrims became a self-sustaining farming community.
Their salvation came from the Wampanoag Indians who taught them to hunt, fish and embraced the three sisters of nourishment: corn, beans and squash. These were the three crops that nourished all the Native Americans.
Potatoes and tomatoes were grown as ornamental plants in Europe in the 16th century and would not be adopted by the Americans until the 18th century. Two lesser vegetables were quickly adopted by the settlers as well as Europeans, sweet potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes.
-- Eating in America A History by Waverly Root & Richard de Rochemont