Monday, January 21, 2008

The Romanesque Broccoli Project explained

Back on the first Sunday morning of the new year, my fiancée ventured out to the local farmers market and came across the following vegetable:

She purchased the unusual plant, but not because it was touted as being delicious. No, she bought it primarily because she thought it would make for an interesting photographic subject for me.

I kid you not.

She said it was called Romanesque broccoli*. (I'm led to believe it's due to the plant originating in Italy, at least four centuries ago.) The buds are fractals, and it naturally grows that way.

Again, I kid you not.

She put it in the refrigerator.


This presented me with a bit of a new situation for me as a pseudo-photographer. I typically find and shoot subject matter as it is; I don't tend to artificially (so to speak) arrange what is to be photographed. However, with this, I had to figure out how to put it into some situation where its unique appearance could be best captured.

So I took the easy way out: I waited until the next morning, when the sun would be coming through the kitchen window.

I got up a bit early so I could attend to the task before work. And I opened the fridge and regarded at the subject, and I thought, Hey, that doesn't look bad in the light from the back of the fridge.

So I moved around some of the other items on the top shelf (so they wouldn't take focus away from the vegetable) but left the broccoli itself simply sitting on the paper towel where it had been all night. I set up the camera on the counter, propped the door wide open, and took 11 shots over 6 minutes.

But I only changed the position of the broccoli once, so all the shots were basically the same, just with different camera settings, slightly greater zoom, etc. The best one shot of each of those two positions inside the fridge can be seen on this posting on the photo site.

And yes, the light inside the fridge was exactly the same in the morning as it would have been all day the day before. Waiting served me not at all with these.

Eventually I could no longer justify letting the cold air continue escaping from the fridge, art or no art. (Pretending for the purposes of this entry that there was any artistic element to this.) I pulled out the subject and put it on the counter where the light from the sun outside would be coming in.

Of course, unlike the day before when it was very clear, that Monday morning was partially cloudy, so the light fluctuated from nice and bright to muted and diffuse over the course of the next 16 minutes, as I took another 37 shots with varying amounts of illumination, shot from multiple different angles, repositioning the broccoli at least twice.

I then had to hurry and put it back in the fridge and rush out to just barely get to work on time.

Now, two weeks later I have finally posted only 7 of those 37 here on the photo site (suppressing a self-indulgent notion to put up more), which you can click over to and judge the results for yourself.


What happened to the Romanesque broccoli?

That night my fiancée steamed it.

And seasoned it with black pepper and French grey sea salt.

It served as a delightful side dish with roast beef. It tasted like... well, a broccoli version of cauliflower. Which, considering how much more expensive than regular broccoli (or cauliflower) it was, means I really need to be happy with how the photos turned out. As models go, it was ridiculously cheap.


* Doing further research just now I have found it's also more properly called Romanesco broccoli, or (not surprisingly) fractal broccoli. What's somewhat surprising, however, is that it is not, in fact, broccoli; it is actually a type of cauliflower. But it's not like scientific reality plays a role in how such things get named.


Interesting meta side note: In doing the aforementioned most recent research, I found that in a Google search of "romanesque broccoli" one the posts of the broccoli shots I just posted to the photo site an hour earlier was already included in the results.

On just the second page of results.

This makes me disinclined to go back and change those posts to more proper "Romanesco broccoli," as I'm sure my posts would end up way farther down in such results.

It seems better to be more likely found by people searching for its more colloquial name than get lost in the shuffle amongst those who really know what it's called.


  1. It had a bit of a nutty flavor to it. And the texture was completely "cauliflower-esque". And now I have that damn Dana Carvey song, "Choppin' Broocccccoliiii" stuck in my head.

  2. We also found this very exotic looking vegetable in a spanish street market near to where we live in Mojacar, Spain. Different venders told me different names, however, I tried Romanesque plaant and up came your delightful photos!
    The vendor held up a cauliflower and a brocolli and smashed them together...I got consept. Am steaming it today!


So, what do you think?