Is it broccoli or is it cauliflower? Neither – it’s Romanesco

The first time I saw Romanesco was at the Jean Talon market in Montreal last fall. I wasn’t sure what it was at first but I was intrigued by its pyramid like shape and geometry. It kind of looks like a science fiction version of broccoli that’s lighter in colour and angular in shape versus round.

Last week, I happened to see it scattered among the winter squash at my usual vegetable stand at St. Lawrence Market. I asked the owner “What kind of vegetable is this?” His reply “It’s Romanesco. Part cauliflower, part broccoli – it tastes similar to cauliflower except it’s more mild in flavour.”

Romenesco, also known as Romanesque cauliflower or Romanesco broccoli (or broccoflower), is light green in colour and more crunchy and delicate in flavour than cauliflower.

Is it a genetically modified version of broccoli or cauliflower?
No. It has actually been harvested and eaten for over 500 years and is believed to have come from Italy.

I asked the vegetable stand owner to choose a good one for me. One that was free of discolouration and had nice, firm florets. “You cook it just like cauliflower. You can steam it or roast it. Cut it from the base so that way you keep the florets intact.”

So that weekend, I went home in eager anticipation to cook Romanesco. I removed the base and broke off the florets, tossed them in salt, pepper and olive oil and roasted them at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes.

How to cut Romanesco

What did it taste like?
It tastes similar to broccoli and cauliflower but it’s not as ‘grassy’ as broccoli and not as strong as cauliflower (which is a good thing in my opinion – I was never a big fan of cauliflower and have always preferred broccoli).

It does have a nice creamy texture and I actually prefer it over both of its parent vegetables.

The next time you’re in the grocery store and see Romanesco, I encourage you to give it a try. Since it’s a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower it’s not that different in terms of taste and preparation.

Some people actually prefer it for its milder taste. Plus it looks really cool and I can see it being a hit with kids. And it’s always nice learning how to cook new things.

Have you tried Romanesco before? What did you think of it? Do you have a recipe you would like to share?

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