Corn spends the summer standing stock-still, chatting up the other stalks. Not that there’s much to say. Sun: hot. Water: welcome. Cobs: coming along. Monoculture is monotonous.

Which explains companion planting – mixing up crops curbs boredom and makes the most of odd bedfellows.

Take corn: all leg.

The bean, on the other hand, springs out the ground a tender, grasping vine, too weak to support its heavy pods.

Squash spreads its leaves low and wide underfoot. Annoying tendencies, all. But together: cunning.

Corn offers beans a sturdy trellis. Beans enrich the soil with nitrogen. Squash elbows out weeds. Call it symbiosis, codependence or clever. Call it, as does my matchmaking friend Liz, interlocking neuroses.

Call it, like old-time gardeners, “the three sisters,” or, like old-time TV, Charlie’s Angels. The teamwork pays off, making each plant healthier and each salad happier.


Prep: 10 minutes plus time to chill

Cook: 10 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

2 tender zucchini (each about 7 inches long)

3 ears corn, shucked

1 pound skinny green beans, cut in half crosswise

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Pare: Use a vegetable peeler to carve zucchini, peel and all, into long ribbons. Discard the seed-speckled core.

2. Blanch: Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. (If you’ve got a designated strainer pot, use that. If not, a large pot, a handheld strainer and tongs will come in handy.) Drop in corn and cook until shocking yellow, about 7 minutes. Pull out corn and let cool.

3. Blanch: When the water has returned to a boil, add the green beans. Cook until bright green and crisp/tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Pull out beans and cool under cold running water. Spread out on a clean kitchen towel, roll up to dry.

4. Blanch: When water has returned to a boil, add the zucchini ribbons. Cook, stirring gently, until edges are bright green and zucchini is tender, about 1 minute. Pull out and cool under cold running water. Spread out on a clean kitchen towel and roll up to dry.

5. Toss: Shave corn kernels from the cobs. Drop them into a large serving bowl. Tumble in beans and zucchini ribbons. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss gently. Chill. Enjoy.