Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tabasco Treasure

A salty, piquant aroma of pepper sauce tickles your nose as soon as you walk into the visitors center. Sign up for the next tour beside a giant size replica bottle of Tabasco sauce.

This is Tabasco country, and you’re on Avery Island in southern Louisiana a 2-1/2 hour drive west of New Orleans.

Here you can tour the pepper sauce factory to learn and see how it’s made. At the reception area meet the guide – a spicy Cajun gal who talks about the McIlhenny family who started the operation in 1868. Today, product is shipped to 40 countries worldwide. Did you know that most of the pepper plants grown on the island only produce seeds? These seeds are so valuable; they are stored in bank vaults until ready for export to Central and South America where they are grown into plants. The peppers are returned to the island where they are ground and mixed with Avery Island salt and put into barrels to ferment for 3 years.

You can buy the sauce and mementos in the old-fashion Tabasco Country store, the last stop of the tour. Hungry for pepper-flavored ice cream? How about a dollop of spicy jelly? You can taste a variety of Tabasco spiked foods at the store’s sample bar.

If it’s not raining, enjoy bird watching or stroll the 200-acre Jungle Gardens to see the bamboo, azaleas and camellias. There’s plenty of wildlife to see, from the Snowy Egret to alligators, nutria and armadillo that share the swamps and marshland.

For a $1 bridge toll you can visit the 2600-acre Avery Island that sits on a salt mound that is deeper than Mt. Everest is high. Tour hours of the pepper sauce factory are Monday – Sunday 9 to 4. It’s closed on major holidays. Admission is free. Phone: 1-800-634-9599. Visit their website at www.TABASCO.com