Avery Island, LA: Where hot peppers and snowy egrets harmonize
We're condiment-friendly: we like our ketchup and our mustard and the occasional relish. But we're passionate about Tabasco Sauce.
Those bottles, so ubiquitous that you sometimes hardly notice them, come from a long, proud tradition begun in 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana. After being given pepper seeds from Mexico, Edmund McIlhenny planted them and created the recipe which is still used today.
Peppers are picked when they match the color on le petit bâton rouge—a stick painted the exact red that farmhands hold next to a pepper to judge the precise day for picking. The peppers then begin a 3-year stay in oak barrels as part of a mash. After that, they meet up with vinegar, lose the skin, pulp, and seeds, and become one of the bottles shipped to over 160 countries around the world.
You can take a tour of the Tabasco factory and see the island's 250-acre Jungle Gardens, also a recipe of sorts from Mr. McIlhenny. He started a sanctuary for the snowy egret when it was endangered and then extended his estate to include the gorgeous gardens and indigenous animals that include the snowy egrets and alligators, as well as over a thousand varieties of iris.
The folks along the Gulf have had more than their share of tragedy in the past years. Go and visit them, and make a stop on Avery Island. And keep the supply of Tabasco coming!