Saturday, February 6, 2010

Romanesco Broccoli

I was wrong about the broccoli! The Romanescos are forming heads, as advertised: astonishing pale green jewels barely two inches wide, surrounded by ruffled brocade-like leaves. It's always thrilling to grow a new variety and see each phase of growth as it proceeds.

Up to now the the plants have looked like every other broccoli plant I've seen. But the heads are something new. They remind me of fractals -- the mathematical formations in which the whole is comprised of smaller instances of itself: in this case a cone-shaped spiral made of smaller cone-shaped spirals which are in turn made of even smaller cone-shaped spirals.

So, imagine my surprise just now in looking up fractals on Wikipedia, to discover that Romanesco broccoli is given as an example of a naturally occurring fractal form (scroll down a bit to find the photo). But that's not all. It is also an example of a logarithmic spiral -- like the iconic chambered nautilus seashell or like a spiral galaxy. Wow! That's a lot of powerful associations for a humble little broccoli plant. I never know what marvels will be revealed in the back-yard. "In the garden is the universe unfolding . . ."

I will have to grow this variety from now on just for its amazing properties.

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