A Delicious Fractal

romanesque cauliflower

A small Romanesque Cauliflower. (Click for larger view.)

Imagine my delight when I spotted this lovely piece of edible mathematics in the Hollywood Farmer’s Market this morning. The stall has several of them of many sizes (this was a very little one) and of several colours. Wonderful. If you don’t know what I mean when I talk about the mathematics, or use the term fractal, look it up. There are several things of note, among which are the wonderful spiral structures that you can see (Fibonacci spirals) all over, and which in various ways, encode the infinite sequence of numbers 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233…. (you get the next one by adding the previous two) called the Fibonacci sequence. Ratios of successive members of the sequence, (e.g., 5/8, 8/13, 144/233, etc) approximate what I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post is definitely my favourite number (if I have to pick one), the Golden Ratio (or Golden Mean): [tex](\sqrt{5}+1)/2\simeq 1.61803\ldots[/tex] which is also embedded in the spiral. Next there’s the fractal nature of the structure. Each of those little florets of the vegetable/flower is a little microcosm of the entire structure. There are little spirals on it and so forth, arranged in the same way. Next, you can find a little set of florets on the florets, which also is a microcosm… and so it goes on…

Here are two more shots of the same, from different angles. Click for larger views to see the wonderful structure.

   romanesque cauliflower   romanesque cauliflower

Guess what? Like yesterday I have a beautiful tasty thing that I can’t bring myself to eat!


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14 Responses to A Delicious Fractal

  1. Yvette says:

    Now that is pretty sweet! You are forgiven for posting it. 😉

  2. Elliot says:

    And it’s good for you too. Those sulfur containing vegetables (brocoli, cabbage etc.) are protective against multiple types of cancer.


  3. pedant says:

    The first time I saw one of these romanesco cauliflowers I was entranced, bought it and admired it until it was well past its sell-by date and quite inedible. Subsequent purchases were consumed; their great beauty was not matched by their flavour, which was not as good as that of the bog standard choufleur.

  4. Chanda says:

    True story! I once used this vegetable (and it’s fractal nature) to give a technical talk on cosmology. Although, I knew it as a broccoflower.

  5. Athena says:

    I’d like to know what the texture is like when it’s cooked, and then finally when as it’s being chewed. To me, that’s just as fascinating as the appearance. : )

  6. Bob says:

    Cauliflower has its texture change depending upon how you cook it and how you cut it as well. In India they like to cut it like bread into slices first and then into smaller pieces so that when you stir fry it in olive oil you will trap the juice into the vegetable better. What they do a lot is to first stir fry in the olive oil and be sure to cover. You then add a few teaspoons of cold water after three minutes and cover again after a slight stir. Now you are stir steaming until you add the major grey chutney (two teaspoons to serve one)at the 5 minute mark, stir and cover all over a medium to low flame.

    I usually slice up one small potato and a red pepper. The potato goes in right away with the cauliflower and the pepper goes in after the chutney at about the last 3 minutes.

    Total cooking time: 10 minutes. Sometimes I add Pad Thai noodles and chili sauce which I make seperately.

    This is an official warning..The major grey chutney is really addictive to the taste buds.

  7. Jonathan says:

    It’s a beautiful vegetable, and comes in a variety of colours! I had this one last week:

  8. Clifford says:

    Thanks for the recipe suggestion, Bob. I actually did something a lot simpler – brushed it with olive oil and roasted it in the oven for a short while. Very tasty. It is somewhere between a cauliflower and broccoli.


  9. zaytuun says:

    beautiful fractals!
    thanks for the info

    zaytuun | Fractal Art WebGallery

  10. lefox says:

    The veg is lovely just steamed for 12 – 15 minutes and dressed with a little butter, salt and pepper. Very tender, nutty and buttery flavour.

  11. Kwang says:

    I purchase one just this weekend at a local farmer’s market. I drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with garlic powder and salt. Roasted in a foil pouch at 400 degrees until tender. Dee-licious…

  12. Oliver says:

    I’ve just used one of these in an improvised cauliflower cheese. I don’t think I’ve ever stared so long at a vegetable before making the first incision; it wasn’t entirely obvious what to do.

  13. Clifford says:

    Evidently, you needed a Subtle Knife.



  14. Claire says:

    So much of the Fibonacci numbers in nature, including us.
    Is it a coincidence that nature looks after us so well, with these foods? 😉