Banana 'Gros Michel' (Musa acuminata)
Gros Michel, or Big Mike, is a rare, coveted banana with an interesting history. It was originally from Southeast Asia and was brought to Martinique and then to Panama in the early 1800s. From there it was grown for export as a monoculture throughout Central America and was the main banana variety that was shipped to Europe and North America. Unfortunately, the Panama disease, a species of Fusarium wilt, spread through huge expanses of banana plantations in Central America, killing the trees and infecting the soil so that they could not be replanted. By the 1960s, there weren’t enough Gros Michel bananas left to export, so the disease-resistant Cavendish variety replaced them from then on.
But Gros Michel survived, grown by backyard gardeners and small farmers on uninfected soil. The bananas won’t be found in stores, but a few select nurseries sell these excellent trees. The fruit is straighter than Cavendish, with thick skin and a sweet taste and creamy texture.
Like all bananas, Gros Michel does well in full sun or partial shade with high humidity in rich, well-draining soils. It is hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11.