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Have you ever studied a cauliflower and looked closely? It sounds odd, but having rediscovered cauliflower cheese recently I’ve also discovered the beauty of the cauliflower.

As you peel back the chunky outer leaves, you’ll eventually get to the final set that seem to hug the flower. Technically, the flower is actually called the ‘head’ or the ‘curd’. Anyway, if you look closely at the final leaves they hug the contours of the head with incredible precision.

That must mean that the growing leaves sense their proximity to the head, or the shape of the head is communicated to the growing leaves so they know how to respond. Either way, what used to be a boring vegetable is now a bit of a delicacy for me and incredibly interesting.

For years, cauliflower or runner bean were just something Dad grew, Mum cooked and you had to eat them. There wasn’t much joy in a cauliflower in the way that say, a McDonalds cheeseburger used to offer.

Perhaps it has been the lockdown that has encouraged many people to stop and look at things differently for the first time. Perhaps it’s the spirit of making more of what you have. Perhaps its discovering some new cook like Yotam Ottelenghi that has opened my eyes to the delight in eating vegetables again.  

The more I examine nature the more amazed I am. As a computer programmer (amongst other things) I know how hard it is to design effective computer code, let alone control and coordinate hundreds of billions of cells that are all responding to all sorts of stimuli. Each cell itself is a marvel of coordinated signals, code, machinery and processes that makes a cell do what it does. The more science teaches me about how life works, the more I doubt the ability of neo-Darwinian evolution to explain it.

So next time you pick up a cauliflower to eat, look carefully. It’s amazing how complex and beautiful something can be, if you simply stop and look at it closely.