Romanesco: The vegetable fit for a da Vinci portrait

You’d be forgiven for thinking Romanescos, a close cousin of broccoli and cauliflower, are from another dimension.

This otherworldly veg, which hails from Italy and may appear in your delivery box in late autumn and winter, are far from alien. In fact, they happen to showcase a textbook example of a Fibonacci fractal, which are extremely common in the natural world.

Fractals are patterns that repeat at different magnifications. These patterns follow the Fibonacci sequence where each number equals the sum of the previous two numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 … you get the picture.

The golden ratio is also an offshoot of the Fibonacci sequence, which is known for its intrinsic beauty and has found its way into many famous buildings and artworks, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

And, incredibly, the mere sight of a fractal pattern is enough to diffuse stress and allow our minds to wander, making us feel good.

Researchers recently discovered why the Romanescos are shaped the way they are. Like all cauliflower varieties, Romanescos gain their shape because each floret starts off as a flower bud that fails to become a flower. The buds left behind then shoot to make new failing flowers, which is then repeated over and over again.

Fibonacci, hard at work!

Not only are these lime green brassicas a mathematical marvel, but they are also very tasty.

The flavour could be described as some kind of cauliflower-broccoli hybrid but milder. The taste can be a little sweet and even nutty, depending on how it's cooked. Just like it’s more familiar counterparts, Romanescos love a bit of time in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper to make them charred and delicious.

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