Three Sisters Soup

Shelburne Farms recently collaborated with Fred Wiseman, Abenaki scholar and paleoethnobotanist, to create a harvest dinner in celebration of the traditional Abenaki agricultural year. Prepared by Jessee Lawyer, Abenaki Chef at Sweetwaters in Burlington, and Shelburne Farms Executive Chef Emeritus Jim McCarthy, each dish featured an important crop or set the stage for a traditional Abenaki story. 

Left: Abenaki scholar Fred Wiseman. Right: Three Sisters Soup.
Left: Abenaki scholar Fred Wiseman. Right: Three Sisters Soup.

Fred Wiseman started working with Abenaki communities as part of the documentation process for federal tribal recognition. While he was in these communities, Wiseman noticed crops that had long been thought to have disappeared growing on the hillsides. It led him to start the Seeds of Renewal Project. Its mission: to assist and encourage the Abenaki tradition of seed saving and indigenous gardening by helping to track down rare or long-lost seeds native to northern New England.

Left: Squash roasting over the fire. Right: Program guests.
Left: Squash roasting over the fire. Right: Program guests.

It is this work that inspired this special meal. On the menu was Three Sisters Soup, a recipe created by Anna Roy-Wiseman. Three sisters soup is almost a universal dish throughout Indigenous North America. Anna had tasted several traditional recipes from various Native cooks in the region and experimented with adding various spices and Native American additions such as tomatoes, peppers, and onions, to fit a more modern palette.

Left: Wildcrafted mushrooms. Right: Chefs Jim McCarthy and Jessee Lawyer.

Three Sisters Soup


*Our Market Garden Team planted a variety of plants traditional to Abenaki cooking, including King of the Early Bush Beans, Marfax Beans, Vermont Cranberry Beans, (from Fedco Seeds) and East Montpelier Squash (from Fred Wiseman).

  • 68oz or 8.5C chicken broth
  • 1 large winter squash cut into cubes*
  • 4C corn
  • 4C pre-cooked beans*
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2T tomato paste
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T butter
  • 3T celery flakes
  • 1t allspice
  • 1t chili powder
  • Sea salt and black pepper


  1. Soak the beans overnight. Drain in the morning, rinse, and put in a pot. Fill the pot with fresh water, approximately two inches above the level of the beans. Bring to a boil and then let gently simmer until beans are tender. Reserve the bean water.
  2. In a separate pot, sauté the onions, garlic, corn, and squash. Add allspice, celery flakes, chili powder, plus remaining ingredients along with salt and pepper. Pour in chicken broth plus three cups of reserved bean water. Cover and slow simmer for two hours. Add the cooked beans once they are cooked and tender. Stir and season to taste as the soup cooks.
  3. Optional: Use a hand blender to slightly thicken the soup once the squash is cooked.


Submitted by Kathlen on Thu , 10/10/2019 - 07:31 PM

Can’t wait to make this soup. I love cranberry beans.

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