From Chinampa’s to the “three brothers” garden, kin to the more known “three sisters”, we get the sense of how a lot of ideas often used in permaculture are really connected with our history from different regions.
I'm fascinated - I'm familiar with the three sisters of maize/squash/beans, but what are the three brothers? And what can we learn from them?
Thanks for the question. The three brothers are the perennial version of the three sisters. I'm not sure where I first learned of the three brothers and if it's a real native american tradition or a recently invented story. Maybe someone out there reading this can help me out on the true origin. I've put a bit of research into the subject and didn't get very far. For me the three brothers are Apios americana (American groundnut) a nitrogen fixing vine with edible tubers, seed pods and flowers. Helianthus tuberosus (sunchoke) is a tall sunflower like plant with edible tubers and Asarum sp. (wild ginger) as a winter ground cover but now deemed not edible. I've also seen Elderberry in the mix but that would probably have to replace the sunchokes. As far as plants go Apios is definitely my favorite but go with the improved varieties only.
The best part about the combo for me is that the sunchokes start looking awful towards the end of summer. Just when you want to mow them down for complete ugliness the Apios climb over the tops and envelop everything in a sea of green hiding the mess. Then, when you dig up the tubers through winter you get both.
Hi Shawn, I recall you mentioning before the "improved varieties" of American groundnut available. Could you elaborate on any named cultivars or good sources for buying specimens or seeds with which you are familiar? Thanks!
On the Edible Landscaping page, it lists groundnuts as hardy to zone 6, but I have read elsewhere they are hardy to zone 3. I'm in zone 4b, so I don't want to plant them unless I can get a definitive answer. Anyone know?
"People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do."
I think it's that some varieties are hardier to colder temperatures than others. I recall reading about that a few years back, but didn't pay much attention since I'm zone 7/8. I *think* there's at least one place that sells a variety for colder temperatures. I'll see if I can locate it for you!
In searching, I also found a few more sellers of groundnut that I had not known about previously. Herb Roots has the cheapest price I have yet to see: 25 tubers for $19.95! And, I found Tripple Brook Farm has the larger variety for $9.95/tuber, though they mention they've only really tested its hardiness down to zone 5.
I've tried repeatedly to grow Prairie Turnip with no luck so far. No luck with Groundnut either. This year looks good for Sunroot but not sure if they'll be reliably perennial; my previous planting died out. And they are supposed to be so invasive!
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