When most people think of bananas hanging on a tree, they picture tropical places. A University of Georgia researcher wants them to start associating Georgia with the popular fruit, and he’s found a new variety to help do that.

Americans love bananas. They eat 33 pounds per person every year, consuming 31 percent of the world’s bananas. Some 99 percent of all bananas eaten in the U.S. come from another country, said Greg Fonsah, an economist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and head of the UGA banana project.

Bananas could be much like strawberries or blueberries, which have both turned into multi-million dollar crops in just the past few decades in Georgia.

“It will be our new commodity, and at least part of that $1.5 billion spent to import bananas to the United States would be going back to boost our economy,” said Fonsah, who worked with multi-national companies such as Del Monte Fresh Produce and Aloha Farms Inc. in Hawaii with bananas before coming to Georgia.

Fonsah and his colleagues have investigated 35 banana varieties in Georgia since 2003. One variety called Veinte Cohl — discovered in Florida — looks promising, he said.