The Iroquois have been using the three sisters method of planting since the 1300s, and were thought to pass their wisdom on to the European settlers that arrived three centuries later. The triad of vegetables - corn, beans and squash - provided the Native Americans with physical and spiritual sustenance. The three sisters method of sustainable companion planting provided soil fertility and a healthy diet from one single planting. The corn provides structure for the beans. The beans pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil and as vines wind and twist towards the sunlight, they bind the three together and provide further structure. The large leaves of the sprawling squash provide shade keeping the soil cool, moist and weed-free, creating living mulch that shades moist and preventing weeds. The prickly squash leaves also keep away critters.