Tabasco and Aigrettes – Avery Island, LA

Now back to our regular programming.  The last two anniversary posts, hiking and biking faves, were fun to write not only for the sharing part but because they brought back fond memories as we discussed and voted on them together.

Now where were we?

Registering for the tour

Registering for the tour

Pass the Tabasco, please.”  We hear this in restaurants, diners, even at home,  that’s how famous Tabasco sauce is.  I love Tabasco, for it gives that extra zip to an otherwise bland food.  But do you know that the plant that makes Tabasco is sitting on an island of salt right here in Louisiana?  Do you know what an Aigrette is?  How could Tabasco and Aigrette be in one sentence?  Well, hang on and read on, even if you don’t like Tabasco sauce. Avery Island

We love touring working factories of all types, and we try to locate them as we move along on our travels.  Avery Island is the home of world-famous Tabasco sauce, owned by the McIlhenny Company.  The island is surrounded by swamps and marshes, and you must pay $1.00 to drive onto it.

The island is the largest of five “salt domes” in coastal Louisiana, and the first salt dome mined in the US.  And we’re not kidding around when we say BIG.  According to the information we got at Avery Island, “If you fashioned of pure salt a life-sized model of Mt. Everest, there would still be enough salt left to model a dozen or so of the major mountain peaks of the Allegheny range”.  Wow, my blood pressure is rising just thinking about that!  The mine currently produces about 2.5 million tons per year and the extracted salt is 98.9 pure.

We learned a lot of interesting facts about the making of the famous sauce from their 8-minute video:

-Tabasco pepper sauce was first produced in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny, its recipe unchanged for over 142 years and in the same location, Avery Island.

-30 acres of the peppers, known as Capsicum frutescens variety tabasco, are grown on Avery Island to produce seeds only.  The seeds are then shipped primarily to Central and South America, where peppers grown in the constant heat and humidity are used to produce the sauce.

-To determine ripeness, peppers are compared to a little red stick (le petit bâton rouge) that each worker carries.le-petit-baton-rouge

-The pepper mash used to make the Original Red Sauce is allowed to age for up to three years in white oak barrels (previously used for Jack Daniels whiskey).  Just like wine, it is being fermented and aged!

-Tabasco originates from  a Mexican Indian term meaning “land where the soil is hot and humid.”

-A 2-oz. bottle of the Original Red Sauce contains at least 720 drops.

A viewing gallery is provided, where we observed the bottling and packaging operations, and on this day the batch of  Tabasco was going to Germany.  How about this number – 700,000 bottles are produced per day at this one plant, and every bottle ever produced came from right here!

Tabasco Pepper Sauce

We ended our tour with a stop at the Tabasco Cafe where we enjoyed our current favorite food, Crawfish étouffée and Boudin splashed with what else ,Tabasco sauce.  Yum!

On the other side of Avery Island is the Jungle Garden, a 170-acre lush garden with a bird sanctuary as the highlight.  The garden was cultivated by E.A McIlhenny, son of the Tabasco sauce inventor.  He also installed the sanctuary for the Snowy Egrets called “Bird City “, and through this and his other efforts he was able to save these birds from extinction.   We saw the specially-built platforms which are rebuilt every year just for the nesting birds.

Bird City

Platforms for breeding Egrets

Now to the aigrettes.  During breeding season the Snowy Egrets develop “aigrettes”, or “nuptial plumes.”

Egret developing aigrettes.

Note the aigrettes

Years ago, aigrettes were so desirable (used to deck out woman’s hats), that plume hunters nearly completely exterminated these beautiful birds. Their filmy plumes are such a beauty that it costed more than gold a century ago.  While we were viewing them we spotted two lovebirds doing their thing.  Click here to view my first-ever X-rated image 🙂

Snowy Egrets

Ain’t they cute! It must be mating season.

Self-guided driving access to the Jungle Garden tour was a little pricey, but the Tabasco plant tour was free.  Anyway, that’s how Tabasco and Aigrettes can be in one sentence!

During this stop we stayed at Poche’s Fish-N-Camp RV Park, which was recommended by one of our followers, Alice and Bernard.  It’s a very quiet, clean and spacious park with lots of open spaces and large ponds that we enjoyed walking around several times.  We had a 360 degree view of the ponds and the birds were chirping to their heart’s content . If you like to fish, this is a good place too, for their ponds are well stocked and you dont need a license to do so.  We would definitely come back here again to spend much more time!

Poche RV Park

Our digs surrounded by very large ponds

And finally, Louisiana’s sunsets are not too shabby…
Louisiana Sunset
Louisiana Sunset
Next up – we’re heading to the Big Easy for our first time ever!