Romanesco: What the Hell Is It and Why Does It Look Like It Came from the Moon?
The botanical name is Brassica oleracea, placing it in the same species as common cauliflower. As the name "cauliflower" suggests, the vegetable represents the flower of the organism, or, more correctly, a cluster of flowers. Another name for the plant is Roman cauliflower, which suggests that the origin of the cultivar is in Central Italy. If you think there's something mathematical about the plant, you're right: in growing, the individual buds trace a logarithmic spiral. Romanesco is generally more tender than regular cauliflower, and takes less cooking time. it can be eaten raw more easily than regular cauliflower, too; raw foodists take note.
Some pictures of romanesco from area farmers' markets follow, and after that, some pictures of regular cauliflower for contrast.
Not all regular cauliflower is bone-white, either. Turn the page for some unusual varieties.