From sea shells and spiral galaxies to the structure of human lungs, the patterns of chaos are all around us. Fractals are patterns formed from chaotic equations and contain self-similar patterns of complexity increasing with magnification. If you divide a fractal pattern into parts you get a nearly identical reduced-size copy of the whole. The mathematical beauty of fractals is that infinite complexity is formed with relatively simple equations. By iterating or repeating fractal-generating equations many times, random outputs create beautiful patterns that are unique, yet recognizable. The greatest example of such pattern is Romanesco. Though classified as (and also called) a summer cauliflower, this vegetable's appearance is so uniquely striking that it deserves its own listing. Like regular cauliflower, Romanesca has a tightly compact head of florets attached by clusters of stalks — but there the similarity in appearance ends. Romanesca, which hails from northern Italy, is a beautiful pale lime green color; its florets, rather than being rounded, rise in a pyramid of pointed, spiraling cones. Its flavor is somewhat more delicate than that of regular cauliflower. Romanesca is available only briefly from September through November.
Romanesco is a member of the species Brassica oleracea L., which includes cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, kohlrabi, and numerous other “cultivars” (cultivated variations). Plant species are broader and more diverse than those of animals. The French name, chou Romanesco literally translates to “Romanesco cabbage”, placing it in the cabbage family even though it doesn't much resemble any cabbage you've ever seen. In German, it's Pyramidenblumenkohl: “pyramid cauliflower”; in Italy, where it was first described in the sixteenth century, it's called broccolo romanesco: “Romanesco broccoli”, but sometimes cavolo romanesco: “Romanesco cabbage”. Finally, in English it's usually called “Romanesco broccoli”, but you'll also see it referred to as “Romanesco cauliflower”. Even professional plant taxonomists can't decide precisely where it belongs; some place it within the Italica group with broccoli, while others argue it belongs in the Botrytis group with cauliflower. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower—beats me—let’s just considers it sui generis and call it “Romanesco”.