It’s easy to study history and think of the larger-than-life individuals recorded in books as fictional characters, rather than real people. After all, it’s difficult to imagine having a face-to-face chat with George Washington or Christopher Columbus. But the beauty of history is that these people were not so different from you and I, with regular concerns and problems. As survivalists, it’s valuable for us to study historical pioneers, explorers, and wilderness adventurers — there’s much we can learn from their experiences, even today. Lewis and Clark are one especially relevant example.

Between 1804 and 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark journeyed from Pittsburgh to the Oregon coast and back home. On this 28-month expedition, they encountered many problems, but lack of food was one of the most frequent. Even after completing their objective of reaching the Pacific Ocean, they ran out of provisions on the trip home in September 1806. Attempts at hunting proved unsuccessful. Fortunately, they were saved by a fruit native to the midwest — the pawpaw.

A map of the pawpaw’s range. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture / Wikimedia Commons)

Also known as custard apple or “Indiana banana” as a result of their soft, sweet flesh, the pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to the United States. Asimina triloba is plentiful from eastern Texas through southern Pennsylvania. The fruits are edible raw in early fall, and their flavor is often compared to banana, mango, and pineapple. In the video below from the Townsends YouTube channel, Jon explains how the pawpaw helped Lewis and Clark survive, and discusses the flavor of the fruit after tasting one.

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