Broccoli Romanesco is a garden vegetable in the Brassica family, which includes cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard, kale, and numerous other edible plants. This unusual looking vegetable can be found in some grocery stores, and can also be grown in the garden if you live in a temperate zone. Since the plants can get quite large, prepare to set aside a large area in the garden for growing Broccoli Romanesco. It can be eaten raw or lightly cooked, and has a nutty, slightly spicy flavor which some consumers find quite enjoyable.
In appearance, Broccoli Romanesco is truly bizarre. The vegetable illustrates a fractal pattern, growing a spiral head composed of conical florets which also prove to be spirals upon close examination. The vegetable has a greenish tinge, and giant waxy leaves which can almost entirely conceal the edible heads of the plant. Mathematicians sometimes use the plant to illustrate fractals, since it is stunning to look at in addition to being edible after class.
The vegetable originates in Italy, where it was first identified in the 16th century. There is some dispute over the name of the plant, since it does not really look all that much like broccoli, and it has a very different taste. It can be divided like cauliflower or broccoli, since it has a cluster of individual stalks around a central stem. It is especially important to be careful when cooking Broccoli Romanesco, because it can acquire a very strange texture if is cooked too long. Most cooks prefer to lightly steam or saute it to avoid this problem.
The planting season for Broccoli Romanesco is March through June, and people living in frosty regions should wait until the last frost has passed before planting. When growing Broccoli Romanesco in the garden, prepare a patch of partially shaded alkaline soil, and plant seeds or seedlings at least 18 inches (46 centimeters) apart, to give the plants plenty of room to grow. You can lightly fertilize the soil to promote growth, and the seedlings should be mulched to retain moisture in warmer climates. Water moderately, and harvest the heads of Broccoli Romanesco when they have fully matured, which typically takes around four months.
If you are picking out Broccoli Romanesco in the store, look for firm heads without any sign of limpness or floppiness. Check for slimy areas and spots of discoloration, which indicate that the vegetable may be old, and avoid shriveled or dry-looking specimens. Keep Broccoli Romanesco in the fridge for up to seven days, and try eating it raw with spicy dips or lightly steaming it with other vegetables for a refreshing meal.