The Color Palette of Hunters and Gatherers

67b1bb9b-dacd-4048-b6c8-69b484aacacc Story and photos by Marissa Jensen

It was a quintessential morning; the kind of morning with the sun casting its golden hues as it makes its routine ascent above the horizon, the toes of your boots quickly becoming saturated with the early morning dew, and a soft breeze whispering through the trees, beckoning you to come closer.

It was on such a morning that I found myself in our local prairie, alone in the human presence sense, but with the preferred companionship of my favorite bird dog. The summer’s cruel heat would arrive all too soon, but we both desperately needed to stretch our legs and work off the steam that had been building over the past week. 

We settled into a pace and I felt the rust of the past few days begin to melt off. I walked in a state of hushed contemplation as my companion attempted to locate any bird that would serve her purpose for the day. It never ceases to amaze me what can be discovered when we take the opportunity to be mindful in the moment, and I am more aware of this every day, every year, that we spend exploring in the wild. 

On today’s outing, we stumbled across a plethora of species; great-horned owls, northern flickers, and indigo buntings, to name just a few. I began to follow the striking contrast of a monarch butterfly in the shade of the tree line, when I became aware of the branch that it landed upon.


I always yearn to learn more about foraging; there is something so appealing about hunting for your food, both game and non-game alike. I was delighted to stumble across this mulberry tree, plump with berries and many more soon to ripen. I started to collect what I could, fingers stained with the color palette of hunters and gatherers of centuries past.  

Meanwhile, realizing her futile attempt to locate a bird in an urban-surrounded prairie, my companion quickly caught scent of this new activity and rushed over to provide her support. We collected what we could and were preparing to depart when I noticed a familiar orange blur from the corner of my eye. 

There was our same monarch, resting upon a vine just under the mulberry tree. It was a reminder to me, standing in the prairie with bird dog, berries, and butterflies, of the importance of being mindful in every moment. 

Life and love and loss seem to happen in the blink of an eye. Take the time to explore your surroundings, follow your desires, and always remember to pause. You never know what you might discover.


Recipe Mulberry Quail

Ingredients:
4-6 quail breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup of freshly harvested or frozen mulberries (stems are easier to remove if mulberries have been frozen first).
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 shallot, diced

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet and preheat
  • Season quail with salt and add to skillet once butter and oil are melted and bubbling
  • Sear quail breast over medium to medium high heat until there is a nice golden-brown crust on both sides
  • Remove from heat and transfer to baking dish
  • Add the remainder of the olive oil and butter to the hot skillet
  • Turn down to medium heat and stir in shallots and continue to stir until golden and soft. Be careful not to overcook or it will take on a burned flavor
  • Add in mulberries and stir until further softened 
  • Add ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, ½ tablespoon rosemary, salt and ¼ cup maple syrup 
  • Stir ingredients until mixed thoroughly
  • Allow mixture to simmer for approximately 8 minutes. Keep a close eye to ensure mixture doesn’t become hardened
  • Pour ingredients from the skillet over the quail in the baking dish
  • Bake for approximately 10 minutes or when quail is cooked to your satisfaction
  • Top with fresh rosemary and enjoy

Marissa Jensen is PF/QF’s Education and Outreach Program Manager