The Q&A Archives: History Of Companion Planting

Question: I am curious as to when EuroAmericans took up the practice of companion planting of corn and beans. My grandfather says that his mother did this. I know that the practice is ancient among Native Americans, and my family's oral history claims that my great-grandmother was descended from Osage Indians, a group from the plains. I am wondering if this practice was common at the turn of the (20th) century among EuroAmericans, or if this is possibly a reflection of my great-grandmother's heritage.

Answer: That's an interesting question, but unfortunately, I'm not an historian! Corn is native to the "new world" and historically, gardening practices are often shared and passed along. I would suspect that since growing one's own food was essential to survival (no fast food outlets on every corner), it seems likely that any methods that newcomers used would be derived from determining what already "worked." I'm sorry I can't give you a more definitive answer. An amazingly detailed book on the history of vegetable cultivation (with all kinds of entertaining facts and trivia) is "Blue Corn & Square Tomatoes by Rebecca Rupp, 1987, Storey Communications.

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