Just what is that lime green and pointy vegetable?

4 September, 2020

All about Romanesco cauliflower

Maybe you’ve seen a kind of funky looking lime green and pointy vegetable at the store and wondered just what it is. You’re thinking, “well, it looks a bit like a cauliflower, but pointy, but it’s green, not white.” You’re on the right path.

It’s Romanesco cauliflower, which also goes by the name Romanesco broccoli, or just plain Romanesco. And like its cousins, Romanesco is part of the brassica family. But even though it sometimes shares a name, Romanesco isn’t actually cauliflower or broccoli! Flavour-wise, Romanesco falls somewhere in-between cauliflower and broccoli, with a slight nutty taste.

So how should you eat it?

One of the great things about Romanesco is its funky, pointy shape. It’s like a weird maths puzzle where you try to see how many individual little pyramids you can break it down into. Romanesco is actually a fractal, which means that if you divide it into parts you get a nearly identical reduced-size copy of the whole. It’s also a great vegetable for demonstrating the Fibonacci spiral if you want to get all maths nerd in the kitchen!

Also, if you’re wanting to persuade a suspicious kid to try it, you can go one better than the “baby trees” you might use for ordinary broccoli and say that the Romanesco broccoli is “baby Christmas trees” – how’s that for a parenting win? Even if you aren’t trying to convince a reluctant eater, a preparation method where you celebrate the unusual shape of Romanesco cauliflower is a great idea. Romanesco is a flexible vegetable to cook and eat. Some ideas include:

  • Eat it raw, celebrating its crunch texture, as crudites with dips
  • Steam it as a simple side, just until the lime green colour really starts to pop
  • Roast it – and don’t be afraid to let it char a bit
  • Blanch it, then refresh in cold water to preserve the bright colour, then try adding to salads
  • As the name suggests, Romanesco originated in Italy, so it goes great in pasta dishes, mixed with olive oil and cheese, or with more robustly flavoured sauces

Whatever method you choose, try not to overcook your Romanesco, as you’ll start to lose its shape which is one of the most unique things about it.

Romanesco traditionally loves to buddy up with Italian flavourings like garlic, chilli flakes, lemon zest, anchovies and olive oil. We think it would also be a great substitute for broccoli in your next stir fry too!

Buying Romanesco

You’re most likely to find Romanesco during the autumn and winter months. When you’re buying Romanesco cauliflower, look for heads with a bright colour, no wilting leaves and that feel heavy for their size. Store it in the fridge where it will keep for about a week. So now that you know what to expect, will you be picking up a Romanesco cauliflower next time you see one on the shelf?