Monday, November 06, 2006

Beautiful spirals

Can you identify this vegetable?

Yes, it is an edible food, not a fossil shell or a prop from a sci-fi movie.

Two people I showed it to had the same comment, "How fractal!"

This startling veggie is romanesco, a member of the species Brassica oleracea, which includes broccoli, caulifolower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and kohlrabi.

I'd never seen or heard of it until last week, when I came upon some at my local farmers' market. I waited until I saw another customer put one in her shopping basket, and she kindly answered my questions.

Steamed romanesco tastes like mild cauliflower. My fellow shopper says that she has only seen it in farmers' markets. Certainly my local Whole Foods market doesn't carry it.

This green cauliflower apparently is more common in Europe than in the U.S. I love the German name: Pyramidenblumenkohl ("pyramid cauliflower").

Need to know how to say "red cabbage" in Finnish? Look at this interesting Web site I discovered while searching for romanesco; it has names for vegetables in more than 60 languages, including phonetic spellings for some of the non-Latinate languages.

It's "punakaali," in case you were wondering.

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