Two Sisters: Growing Corn and Shell Beans at Home

Grow corn and shell beans in your home garden to enjoy this pair, grown together for generations. Then combine them in our summertime sweet corn recipes and shell bean recipes.

  • Corn and beans, grown together for generations, can be enjoyed fresh in the garden or together on your table.
    Photo by Barbara Damrosch
  • Plant corn in clusters of four and then thin them to three to save space and promote pollination.
    Photo by Barbara Damrosch
  • Pole beans, such as these 'Rattlesnake' beans, can gain support from a trellis.
    Photo by Barbara Damrosch

Corn and beans have long been related — in history, in the garden, and in the kitchen. As two of the “three sisters,” as Native Americans call them, they coexist happily. Vining beans climb cornstalks, while big leaves of squash carpet the ground below. Modern gardeners tend to give each one its own bed, and most plant sweet corn instead of the flint and flour corns traditionally used in three sisters growing strategies. However, varieties of corn and beans have long been intertwined. It’s a treat to have them together in the summertime, such as in these sweet corn and shell bean recipes.

Summer Fresh Corn Chowder Recipe

Rainbow Succotash Salad Recipe

Summer Chili Recipe with Fresh Shell Beans

Growing Corn at Home

Americans do love their sweet corn varieties. Summer meals leave indelible memories of munching on the ears with butter running down your chin. The whole experience of corn can be an outdoor one if you plan it right. Pick it and shuck it outside so the silks and husks don’t mess up the kitchen. Roast it in the coals of a backyard fire or on a grill, brushed with herb butter and wrapped in foil. Or, soak the freshly picked ears in water, grill until done, husk them hot, and then butter and season them. You can toss all the residue on the compost pile. We’ve even stood in our corn patch and eaten it raw — it’s that tender and sweet when it’s just harvested.

Corn is a handsome plant, and you can landscape with it as if it were a little forest. Plant it in a fertile bed along a fence to lash the stalks to as they grow. That will keep them erect and provide a windbreak for the yard.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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