Romanesco, that delicious alien looking vegetable

hopefully we'll see a romanesco soon

hopefully we’ll see a romanesco soon

We are in full discovery mode.  We recently purchased a house and the area where live gets more than its fair share of wind, sun, although with surprising stretches of shade.  So for these first time gardeners, its trials and lots of errors to see how we succeed.  Its also determining what quantities are enough, or too much, for a couple, such as our motley strawberry collection that affords us tasty treats on occasion but not enough to convert them into something more substantial. But I digress.

One vegetable I was keen to try was Romanesco, or Broccoli Romanesco, I loved just about everything about it and not least how it looked.  I had never seen let along tasted one until a few years ago, and I was hooked. I had always heard it described as a cross between cauliflower and broccoli, but was that really the case?  It is a variant of cauliflower and has been called both Roman cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli.  It is sometimes called broccoflower, but then so is the green colored cultivars which leads to a bit of confusion.

this should be good

this should be good

Math related food

Like the pineapple, the number of spirals on a head of Romaneso is a Fibonacci number.  Which means they follow the equation Fn = F(n-1) + F(n-2) with F0 = 0 and F1 = 1.  According to the LA Times, its even spawned its own style of avant-garde architectural design. I can say that I do not focus on my math skills when digging into the curds (the technical name for the clusters of the cauliflower and the Romanesco)

cannot wait

cannot wait

Growing Romanesco

I acquired some starters and planted them.  Here is where the learning comes in, when they’re small it looks like you’ve given them plenty of space but they grow to over two feet across and I had to transplant a few as they were butting heads (literally).  I also discovered to my dismay that other creatures, who shall remain nameless as I’ve not yet been able to identify them, are attracted to the leaves.  Bugger!

we need a few more of these guys

we need a few more of these guys

So if you are interested, and if you like to garden, I strongly suggest giving it a try as a head of Romaneco is something to savor, here are some lessons learned:

  • They grow more like cauliflower than broccoli – as I had never grown either that was not a problem
  • They get big – as much as 3 feet high – so my little 6″ spacing that I initially had was laughable
  • Romanesco should be harvested in the fall (in warmer climates) – I tried for spring and had a 50% survival rate, which considering everything I screwed up is pretty good.  The good news is I can still get another crop in this year.
  • They like a slightly shared location with alkaline soil, as we had not unleashed our composted dirt on them, I see easy improvement here.
  • Unlike broccoli once the main head is cut, that’s it – no lateral growth develops for additional minor heads.
unfortunately, here's how they developed

unfortunately, here’s how they developed

Apparently, I am not the only person with this problem. I understand that they do not do well in the heat which is what we have, but a note to self either plant in earlier in the spring or later in the fall.  I am definitely going to try again as the one head I succeeded in growing tasted like heaven.

Here’s some recipes for this tasty vegetable. Many cooks substitute Romanesco for cauliflower for a change of pace. It tastes like cauliflower but with a more nutty twist.  It is delicious crunchy, and I like it subtly cooked so the flavor of the vegetable really comes through.

Creative Cooking Ideas for Romanesco (you could easily substitute cauliflower in a pinch)

Romanesco recipes from Mariquita Farms

Stephanie Hui of Lick my Spoon, has a classic recipe, Romanesco Cacio e Pepe for shoat she calls the Lady Gaga of Broccoli

Nigella’s Romanesco,with rosemary, garlic, lemon and pecorino

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4 comments for “Romanesco, that delicious alien looking vegetable

  1. June 29, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    That is such a scrumptious, refined-tasting and versatile vegetable!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. July 11, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    First time I have ever heard of this vegetable. Congrats on your new home.
    Wizzy recently posted..This is why I am not a vegetarian.

  3. August 17, 2013 at 7:02 AM

    That same thing happens to me every year! I have to get them earlier!
    Tammy recently posted..Spirits of Summer

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