• Dr. Patty Hlava

Romanesco in the Spring: Love at First Sight


It was love at first sight. Walking through the produce aisle, I spotted it, just sitting there among the vegetables. It lured me in with its vibrant green, happy, playful look. It’s mesmerizing patterns and textures held my attention and I caught myself smiling with curiosity and wonder. I had no idea what this vegetable was, but somehow knew that we belonged together.

Thus was my introduction to Romanesco.

Food prep was seriously not my thing growing up, or for many of my adult years for that matter. When my nephew was 5, he wanted to take me to school for Show & Tell because I was someone who “knew all about food that came in boxes,” a far cry from his mother’s kitchen of garden-grown vegetables, home-canning, and home-made jams.

I never went to that show-and-tell, but hearing my nephew describe me that way after spending a weekend with me make me think and assess how I was feeding myself—and the people that I loved.

I believed, for many years, that I didn’t have

  1. The time to prepare fresh foods, and

  2. That I didn’t have the skill or knowledge necessary to cook such things.

I was astounded to learn that that I was wrong—on both counts!

I started to get more curious about what it was that mother nature was offering in the produce aisle. I started to experiment. Each week, I would walk through the produce aisle and find one vegetable that was new to me—that I didn’t recognize, or that perhaps I had no idea how to prepare. It became a bit of a game.

Not all of my efforts were successful—and some of my experiments are still outright, comical failures; however, most of the time, I ended up with something pretty tasty on my plate. Over time, I went from being "someone who knows all about food that comes in boxes" to being "someone who love and eats plants."

It’s amazing how little you need to know, or do, to cook fresh produce! the vegetables and I become fast friends. I actually started to develop a relationship with them. Different vegetables for different moods.

How do you develop such a fun relationship with food?

It simply starts with a little curiosity, and Romanesco is the perfect vegetable for the job!

Whenever I see it appear on the shelves at the co-op, I can’t help but smile and feel a little excitement.

Why Romanesco?

Romanesco is a great example of the types of greens that are wonderful for a kapha body like mine—or for pretty much anyone with a human body in a Midwest spring.

Sometimes referred to as Roman Cauliflower, or Broccoli Romanesco, it lives in a liminal space between these two cruciferous vegetables. It tastes similar to cauliflower, but has a slightly sweeter and even nutty flavor: a flavor that echoes the uniqueness of its appearance.

Romanesco pacifies both Kapha and Pitta doshas, Ayurveda speak for: it has qualities that offer lightness and dryness to the body. If you’re feeling heavy, sluggish, congested, or even a bit oily, Romanesco can serve as a supportive ally to help bring you back to balance.

One of the reasons that I love Romanesco in the spring is for its detoxicant effect. As a cruciferous vegetable, is helps support the body in metabolizing toxins and also serves an anti-inflammatory agent.

That being said, because of it’s light and drying qualities, it can be difficult for some (particularly those with higher Vata in their constitutions) to digest. No fear, though. Simply steaming the vegetable and adding a little fresh ginger can go a long way to improve its digestibility.

My favorite way to prepare Romanesco? Steamed, topped with a little bit of lemon. I like to balance its astringent and bitter taste with the sweetness of rice and a pinch of salt. Minced ginger and a pinch of black pepper offer the necessary pungent spice to round out the 6 tastes.

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