Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Romanesco. Is it broccoli? Is it cauliflower? Or just a mathematician’s wet dream?

The other day while I was browsing for some evening provender at Whole Paycheck Foods, a pile of Romanesco caught my eye.

It was a bizarre bit of synchronicity. I had only just the prior day read an article about that most mathematically fascinating vegetable, all the while bemoaning the fact that I had never seen it offered in the Atlanta food stores I frequent. And yet, there it was in all its fractal glory. I had to buy some.

Koch snowflake. [Courtesy Wikipedia.]
Romanesco, one of the many faces of Brassica oleracea (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, collard greens, kale, et al.), grows in a natural version of recursion, a self-similar repeating pattern that displays at every scale. The numbers people call this a fractal, and it can be seen in both mathematical sets and in natural phenomenae. Crystals will sometimes exhibit fractal behavior as they form.

As you zoom into a self-similar fractal image, you see the same thing regardless of scale. Of course, in a living organism like Romanesco, things begin to get a little “fuzzy” as you get closer and closer, but the same overall configuration is still visible.

Why the Romanesco DNA decided to code for such elegant beauty, I have no idea. The religious-minded can use it as an example of the power and subtle wisdom of the Creator: other folks may attribute it to millions of years of mutative randomness.

As for me, it works as both Art Form and as Dinner. I sliced up and roasted that sumbitch with olive oil, kosher salt, and capers. It was delicious.


Adam Lawson said...

Are you still okay after having that... food?

LeeAnn said...

I saw a beautiful screensaver, back in the day when such things were common, that was fractals evolving and morphing. I stopped by a desk to glance at it and 45 minutes later I was still there with no sense of time's passage.
I now cluck like a chicken when I hear the word "artichoke".

Elisson said...

Better, I say, to cluck like a chicken than to choke like a chicken.

As for artichokes, they may choke Artie, but they don't choke Ellison.