Mother Nature breeds some wonderful and interesting plants, animals, and more. There are specific moments in nature when things like math and equations work out perfectly and beautifully. We had a high school art teacher who dedicated a lesson to naturally occurring fractals. The lesson forced us to develop a strong understanding of fractals in nature and had to portray that visually via our favorite medium to work with (acrylic, watercolor, etc.). Thus, our heads and hands were dedicated for 2-3 weeks to portraying a fractal in nature that we personally believed was fascinating and unique. This was a class project that stayed with us for years.
Most definitions of fractals hold a strong, clunky, math-textbook connotation, but the following description makes it a bit easier to digest:
“A fractal is a never ending pattern that repeats itself at different scales… Although fractals are very complex, they are made by repeating a simple process.”
Naturally occurring fractals appear in branching patterns seen in trees and river networks, and in spiral patterns like in seashells, hurricanes, and even in our tasty CSA guest last week: Romanesco Cauliflower.
The specific spiral pattern in the Romanesco Cauliflower is called the Golden Ratio. It’s simply a mathematical pattern that expresses itself in spirals that can be seen in pinecones, the inside of a sunflower, pineapples, and of course, cauliflower!
Romanesco Cauliflowers’ beautiful spiral shape is enhanced by its light, but bright, green color. It tastes a bit crunchier and nuttier than the white cauliflower we are all used to seeing and eating. It can be substituted in recipes that call for cauliflower and broccoli as it benefits from the same cooking methods.
It also has similar health benefits to cauliflower as it is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, dietary fiber, and carotenoids! Carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments which gives our vegetables and fruits their bright colors like red and yellow bell peppers, orange carrots and pumpkin, and hearty green leaves like kale and collards. Carotenoids have been studied over the years and have been shown to have numerous health benefits as they act as antioxidants in our bodies.
If your Romanesco Cauliflower is not coming home from your local CSA like ours from Steadfast Farm (who picked out such a great one for us!), you want to look for one that is bright in color (that beautiful green color!), and the stems should have no signs of wilting. The heads should also feel dense and heavy. You’ll want to keep your beautiful, spiraled vegetable unwashed and sealed in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. Right before you prepare it, you’ll want to wash it under cold water.
This vegetable makes for such a fun and new — and interesting! — vegetable to use when you’re preparing a dish that you usually use broccoli and cauliflower for. We decided to roast ours and season it with lemon juice from the fresh lemons we also received from Steadfast Farm, and gave it just a kick with red pepper flakes and chili powder. Once cut into florets, you can toss ’em in a pasta dish, serve it over rice with a curry sauce, top a lunch salad with a few florets, or even mix them into a vegetable egg scramble for breakfast!
1 head Romanesco Cauliflower
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp lemon juice
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place parchment paper or foil over a baking sheet and place the head of the Romanesco Cauliflower on top.
3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper, sea salt, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. Lastly, drizzle lemon juice on top.
4. Roast the cauliflower until tender for about 20-25 minutes.
5. Should be slightly fork tender when it’s done cooking, but should still have a bit of a crunch.
6. Once cooled, you can cut it into bite-sized pieces and enjoy!
7. Store the remaining in an airtight container in the fridge for about 1 week.
Don’t fear the unique look of the Romanesco Cauliflower. Use your curiosity (and a bit of your nerdy side!) to get a taste of some of Mother Nature’s beautiful, mathematical quirks in your kitchen!
1. How Carotenoids Help Protect Against Cancer. The Physicians Committee. 2016. www.pcrm.org.
2. Johnson E.J. The role of carotenoids in human health. Nutrition Clinical Care. Vol 5:2, March-Apr 2002,pg 56-65.
3. Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center: Carotenoids. Oregon State University. 2016. www.lpi.orgeonstate.edu.
4. Nikhat Parveen, UGA. Fibonacci in Nature. The University of Georgia. www.jwilson.coe.uga.edu.
5. What are Fractals? Fractal Foundation. www.fractalfoundation.org.