Not long ago I ran across this stunning member of the brassica family. It’s called Romanesco Broccoli, and is said to have originated in Lazio, the district of Rome. But I like to imagine it being grown in Crotone, down in the toe of Italy, where Pythagoras might have run across it in the sixth century BCE. Heck, his little group of followers might even have created it themselves, through selective breeding. They were vegetarian mystics, after all, and passionate about the poetry of numbers.
According to those who make it their business to know such things, a head of Romanesco approximates a fractal because the flower buds make up a logarithmic spiral. Additionally, “the number of spirals on the head of Romanesco broccoli is a Fibonacci number.” I could feel myself becoming smarter in mere anticipation of eating this lime green bouquet!
To judge from comments online, many people find Romanesco too scary to consume. Yet it turns out to be milder than either broccoli or cauliflower, while amenable to the same cooking methods as these familiar veggies. I decided to parboil mine for 6 minutes and sauté it with plenty of garlic and red pepper flakes before tossing with Romano cheese (natch!) and lemon juice over pasta. (The lemon is an addition to the traditional recipe, but gave the pasta a boost of extra flavor.)
I just had to add this pic of a shaggy specimen with purple flowers opening up! Amazing. All these Fibonacci numbers have me salivating for spring fiddleheads…