The Gros Michel banana was probably a staple of
your grandfather's or great grandfather's diet,
but chances are you haven't had the pleasure of a
I've been lucky enough to feast on this
almost-lost fruit, and in this article I'll tell
you a bit about it.
Nicknamed Big Mike, the banana was the first to
be cultivated on a large scale, and started
appearing in North American and European cities in
the late 1800s.
Yet the monocrop production of the plant doomed
it; Panama disease descended and started
devastating the plantations where it was primarily
grown, and supplies of Big Mike became disrupted
in the 1940s. By 1960 no commercial operations
were able to grow Gros Michel in the Americas,
Caribbean, and many other parts of the world.
Almost exclusively in Southeast Asia, where it
developed, has it remained disease free and
productive on a large scale. Parts of rural
Africa, islands in the Pacific and Carribean, and
small pockets in Florida, California, and central
and south America can still grow the fruit in
small farm and garden settups, but large-scale
export production has mostly stopped.
Wandering around Muang
Mai Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand in early
2011, I saw a banana that looked a bit like
Cavendish, but not quite. The ripening pattern was
different, it was a bigger, and the smell was
The Thai I bought it from called it, "Kluai Hom
Thong", one of about 30 banana cultivars grown in
Bringing it home, I was pleasantly surprised to
Foreign Words For Gros Michel
Kluai Hom Thong Spanish:
Guineo Giganet, Banano, and Platano
Pisang Ambon Indonesian:
Pisang Embung Burmese:
Thihmwe In the
Most people have only ever eaten the Cavendish,
so that's what I'll compare it to. You should know
that Cavendish is fairly tasteless compared to
most types of sweet banana (those that are not plantains)
don't grow many Cavendish and consider them fairly
bland, although I have seen them in markets
Although Big Mike doesn't compare to my favorites
bananas (Manzano) or Nam Wa bananas, they're
still much better than the Cavendish.
The taste is considerably sweeter, and the
consistency much creamier, with extremely narrow
"seed areas" that you can see, but only vaguely
I should note that you do occasionally see
something labeled Gros Michel in US supermarkets.
They aren't the same thing, and don't taste any
different than Cavendish.