Romanesco: What it Is, Health Benefits & How to Cook It

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Last Updated on May 20, 2024

What is romanesco? It’s a common question asked by those who enjoy eating vegetables. Lots of people wonder if romanesco is a genetically modified vegetable because it kinda looks like broccoli and cauliflower had a baby. It’s not though! 

Learn everything you need to know about romanesco, including health benefits and ways to cook it. 


What is Romanesco?

Romanesco, also known as romanesco broccoli, is an interesting edible flower bud that’s part of the part of the Brassica genus (AKA cruciferous vegetables).

This unique vegetable, with its stunning fractal patterns and bright green hue, often has folks wondering if it’s genetically modified or a hybrid of broccoli and caulflower. 

Learn everything you need to know about this crazy-looking vegetable.

Romanesco Taste & Appearance

Romanesco has a slightly nutty flavor and a hint of earthiness, yet it’s still tender and sweet to the taste.

Its cone-shaped spirals form a natural fractal, which means it repeats the same pattern at every scale.

romanesco spiraled florets

Other Names for Romanesco

Around the world, romanesco goes by many names. You might hear it referred to as:

  • romanesque cauliflower
  • Roman cauliflower
  • broccolo romanesco
  • romanesco broccoli
  • romanesco cabbage
  • fractal broccoli
  • spiral cauliflower
  • coral broccoli
  • italian cauliflower
  • minaret cauliflower
  • fractal broccoli
  • towering inferno broccoli
  • bizarre brassica

Romanesco Nutrition

This alien-looking vegetable is packed full of vitamins and minerals. 

  • Vitamins: Romanesco provides over 100% of the daily recommended intake of citamin C per serving. B-Vitamins are also present, specifically B6 and folate, crucial for brain health and preventing anemia.
  • Minerals: Romanesco is a great source of Potassium, vital for heart function and muscle contractions. Plus, it offers a healthy dose of Iron, necessary for creating red blood cells, and Manganese, beneficial for bone health and reducing inflammation.
  • Antioxidants: This veggie contains carotenoids like beta-carotene and lutein which help protect your body against harmful free radicals.
  • Fiber: Romanesco provides a good amount of dietary fiber which aids digestion, helps maintain a healthy weight, and lowers the risk of heart disease.
  • Protein: Although it’s not a significant source compared to meat or legumes, it still contributes to your daily protein intake which is essential for growth and repair in the body.

halved romanesco

Health Benefits of Romanesco

Thanks to its nutritional profile, romanesco offers numerous health benefits. From boosting your immune system with its high Vitamin C content to promoting gut health with its fiber content – it’s definitely a veggie you want on your plate!

Take a look at the health benefits of romanesco:

High in Nutrients

Romanesco is loaded with essential nutrients such as vitamins C, K, and A, which help to boost your immune system, promote bone health, and maintain good vision respectively.

Rich in Fiber

Packed with dietary fiber, this vegetable aids in digestion by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.

Low in Calories

If you’re watching your weight, romanesco is an excellent choice. It’s low in calories yet high in volume, making you feel full without overeating.

Antioxidant Properties

Romanesco contains antioxidants like carotenoids and glucosinolates that help protect your cells from damage by harmful free radicals.

Supports Heart Health

The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content of romanesco supports heart health by reducing blood pressure levels and lowering the risk of heart disease.

Boosts Eye Health

The high levels of vitamin A in romanesco can help improve eye health by protecting the eyes against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Strengthens Bones

With its generous amount of vitamin K, romanesco aids in strengthening bones and preventing osteoporosis.

Enhances Skin Health

The antioxidants and vitamins found in romanesco help to enhance skin health by promoting cell regeneration and fighting against skin aging.

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Promotes a Healthy Gut

The dietary fiber in romanesco contributes to a healthy gut by nourishing beneficial gut bacteria, thus improving overall gut health.

Helps Prevent Anemia

Romanesco is rich in iron which is essential for the production of red blood cells, thereby helping to prevent anemia.

Fights Inflammation

This vegetable has anti-inflammatory properties due to its abundance of antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation in the body.

Aids Detoxification

Glucosinolates found in romanesco can help detoxify the body by eliminating harmful toxins.

Boosts Immune System

The high vitamin C content of romanesco helps to boost the immune system, making you more resistant to infections and diseases.

Improves Brain Health

Romanesco is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which are beneficial for brain health, potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Supports Healthy Pregnancy

With its high folate content, romanesco supports a healthy pregnancy by aiding in the development of the baby’s neural tube.

close up of roman broccoli

Where to Buy Romanesco

You can usually find romanesco in the produce section near broccoli and cauliflower. You can also check your local farmers markets (I prefer to support my local farming community). 

I’ve not been able to find it organic at our local stores, so I soak it in a mixture of water and vinegar to make sure I get rid of all the pesticides.

This process is beneficial as the vinegar aids in breaking down any residual pesticides and assists in eliminating bacteria.

Here’s how I wash it:

  1. Combine a ratio of 3:1 of water to white vinegar. Fully immerse the romanesco in this solution and let it sit for a good 15–20 minutes.
  2. Next, give it a thorough rinse under cool running water. 

broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco

How to Store Romanesco

Keep romanesco in the crisper drawer of your fridge, ideally in a loosely closed plastic bag. It should stay fresh for 4-6 weeks.

How to Cook Romanesco

Cooking romanesco isn’t too different from preparing broccoli or cauliflower. It can be roasted in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and some seasoning for a simple yet delicious side dish.

  • Roasted Romanesco: Enhance the natural nutty flavor of this unique veggie by roasting it in the oven. Simply coat the florets in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast until tender.
  • Romanesco Soup: Use romanesco just like you would broccoli when you make soup.
  • Romanesco Salad: Raw romanesco can add a nice crunch to your salads. Just chop it up into small pieces and mix it with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber and toss with a vinaigrette.
  • Steamed Romanesco: Steaming keeps the nutrients intact and allows you to appreciate its unique flavor. You can serve steamed romanesco as a side dish or use it in other recipes.
  • Stir-fried Romanesco: Add some excitement to your stir-fry dishes with romanesco. Its firm texture holds up well when stir-fried with other veggies and sauces.
  • Romanesco Pasta Sauce: Blend cooked romanesco with garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese for a creamy pasta sauce that’s full of fiber and nutrients.
  • Romanesco Rice Dish: Mix cooked rice with sautéed romanesco, onions, and spices for a healthy, flavorful one-pot meal.
  • Pickled Romanesco: The florets absorb the vinegar and spices well, giving you a tangy, crunchy pickle that’s perfect as a snack or salad topping.

romanesco florets

FAQs About Romanesco

Is Romanesco GMO?

No, despite its futuristic look, romanesco is not a genetically modified organism. It’s been around for centuries.

Is Romanesco Related to Broccoli?

Yes! In fact, romanesco is often called romanesco broccoli due to its close relation.

Is Romanesco Healthier Than Broccoli?

While both are highly nutritious, romanesco is slightly higher in fiber and vitamin content.

Can You Eat Romanesco Raw?

Yes, romanesco can be enjoyed raw or cooked, depending on your preference.

How to Tell if Romanesco is Bad?

Look out for brown spots, a mushy texture or a strong odor – these are signs your romanesco might have gone bad.

What is the Spiral on Romanesco Broccoli?

The spiral pattern on romanesco broccoli is a natural fractal, which means it repeats the same pattern at every scale.

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