We all know that Ade is pretty good at growing veg. He’s tried growing most things that are suited to our temperate climate (and on occasion, things that really aren’t!) and has never had any consistent failures… aside from romanesco.
I didn’t even know about romanesco until I had it at a restaurant about ten years ago, and I remember staring at my plate in wonderment. What vegetable sorcery was this, I wondered, with its intricate domes and spires that look like they belong atop St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow?
A few years later, when we had the allotment, Ade tried to grow some. He sowed the seeds, they germinated, but when he transplanted them to the plot, the flowerheads never developed. A few years later, when he tried again, the plants were thwarted by an ant invasion. Last summer, Ade planted six romanesco, with the hope of harvesting some for Christmas. One plant died, and the other five didn’t produce flowerheads. “The romanesco hasn’t come to anything again,” he said, grumpily, a few months ago, as we were harvesting our purple sprouting broccoli by the trugful.
Then suddenly, a few weeks ago, they appeared! We harvested some immediately.
A member of the brassica family, I suppose you could describe romanesco as a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, but that rather does it a disservice. It’s got bags more style than its conventional cousins. For a start, it’s chartreuse, and is probably the only thing on the planet that looks good in chartreuse. Secondly, it has a more refined flavour. But it’s the fractal structure of its flower head that is so mesmerising; it’s a mathematical marvel.
I wasted no time in steaming and devouring it, slathered in butter and black pepper. (Maths can only hold my attention for so long and my stomach was rumbling.)
Delighted though he was, Ade was still doubtful whether he wanted to grow romanesco again. It’s a VERY slow grower, and it takes up a fair bit of space. But I’ve really encouraged him to plant some again as it matures at the perfect time of year. April is always a sparse month for us. By the end of March, the purple sprouting broccoli is finished, the kale is finished, all the root veggies have done their thing. No vegetable comes into its own in April (not even our rhubarb, which isn’t ready until May)… except for romanesco! It claims the brassica bed as its own, once all its relatives have exhausted themselves. And we were mighty glad to see it.
And as an unexpected bonus, we discovered it’s actually two vegetables for the price of one! The leaves are delicious in their own right, and we’ve been steaming them separately to the florets, as well as having them in salads and turning them into pesto.
Romanesco, you have truly been a revelation. And hats off to Ade for never giving up! 🥳