Friday, April 29, 2016

Quest for Broccoli

So this evening I was leafing through my copy of The Herbs & Vegetables of Italy by Giacomo Castelvetro (What?  Doesn't everyone spend their spare time looking at books about vegetables?), and I came across this painting ...

Still Life with Christ at Emmaus, Floris van Schooten, c. 1630
Rijksmuseum -

This sort of thing is an addiction for me. I start looking at all the stuff in there and then I'll turn to the next one, and then the next. Pretty soon I've wasted hours muttering things to myself like "That's a medlar. Are those gooseberries? I think they are." But every now and then I spot something exciting.

Yes, I said exciting. You want to make something out of it?

In this particular case, what caught my eye was a bunch of something to the right of center in the painting.


Whatever that thing is, it's not the dense head like the cauliflower depicted in other paintings from the same time period, but it doesn't quite look like modern broccoli either. I've written elsewhere about the uncertainties of medieval broccoli, so this is something that has been long upon my mind and it's the biggest lead I've had in *mumble* years.

I said to myself, "Self, I think that's broccoli."  Ok, actually I said something more along the lines of, "ZOMGWFTBBQSQUEEEEEEE! [insert happy little dance here]" but you get the idea.

Still, it doesn't look like modern broccoli - for example the modern stuff can flower, but the blossoms are usually yellow. Brassica oleracea has a lot of weird variants though. Is there a white flowering variant of broccoli? I do a quick google image search and guess what I find. No, don't guess because I'll show you.

White Sprouting Broccoli
Image from

That looks pretty much like the same thing to me. Now I have to find a source nearby and see what it's like.


Unknown said...

Seen white blossom broccoli like the one in the modern picture in the bottom in a small village called Fratte Rosa in the Pesaro Urbino area. I actually thought it was a cauliflower but the shape is more like the one in your photo

Unknown said...


Urtatim al-Qurtubiyya said...

Also looks like elder flowers, which appear in a number of Italian recipes.

Doc said...

Possibly, but the leaves around it look more like brassica leaves than elderflower.