Put mathematics and broccoli together and you have the two most hated things of my childhood. And that’s exactly what the Romanesco Broccoli is all about. But now that I’m an adult, I find that I’m actually able to appreciate the intricacy of this rare vegetable. The broccoli takes the form of a fractal – a complex geometrical shape that looks almost the same at every scale factor. So each broccoli is made up of smaller florets that mimic the fractal shape to perfection, which in turn are made of even smaller florets of similar shape… and this goes on and on to the tiniest florets.
If you break off a floret from the main head, it looks like a mini-version of the broccoli with its own mini florets. No matter which part of the fractal you zoom into, it will look like an identical version of the bigger picture. It’s fascinating to think that something like this naturally occurs in nature, let alone on a vegetable. A detailed pattern that goes on repeating itself is rare and certainly a thing of beauty.
The Romanesco Broccoli is nothing short of a mathematical marvel, reminiscent of the Fibonacci series – a sequence of consecutive numbers that add up to the next number. Like: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so on. So how can a broccoli imitate a series of numbers? Simple. On closer inspection, the Romanesco is revealed to have a spiral starting from the center point. All the smaller florets are arranged around this spiral. In essence, this is the Fibonacci spiral – a series of arcs with radii that follow the Fibonacci sequence. If you count the number of spirals in each direction, they will always be consecutive Fibonacci numbers. A math lesson on a vegetable – isn’t that amazing?