A few weeks ago I bought a cauliflower at the Alexandra Palace farmers’ market: not just any cauliflower, but a distinctive green one known as a Romanesco. Naturally, given the need to cook an unusual vegetable, I turned the web: after all, the various suppliers of organic vegetable boxes who operate in London cater for a clientele who can Google any vegetable that they find in their box, and find a range of recipes.
So I was surprised to find that the Romanesco cauliflower is as notable for its mathematics as for its nutritional property. First my search thew up this delightful image from a Cambridge physics professor , who had painted a Romenesco cauliflower to draw attention to the naturally occuring spiral patterns in it. Then I found this piece about fractals on the supermarket shelf (the site’s name, Fourmilab, is a pun based on the French word for an ant). And finally I came across this one, which relates the shape and symmetry of the vegetable to Fibonacci numbers.
I’m not sure what to conclude from this, except perhaps that the Internet is a better tool if you want to count the florets on a vegetable than if you want to eat it