Deep in southern Louisiana there is an island made of salt, completely surrounded by bayous. Known as a salt dome, this unusual geological formation is home to the fields that grow a unique red pepper, one that’s turned into the iconic hot sauce of just about every pantry and back-bar in the United States: Tabasco.
Since 1868, five generations of one family have been making Tabasco on Avery Island, at the southern end of Louisiana’s New Iberia parish. The McIlhenny Company, owned by descendants of the original family that settled the island, still runs the factory, along with a museum, country store, and restaurant. There are also daily tours of the greenhouse, barrel and blending processes, the island’s salt mine, and the factory’s bottling plant.
For most of Tabasco’s existence, the fields that surround the factory grew every pepper that ended up mashed into the vinegar-based sauce. Today, in order to protect against weather and other threats to the crop, the seed peppers are all grown in the unique soil of the salt dome, then exported to international farmers to ensure steady growing seasons. Still, even with peppers from Central and South America, they’ve been producing Tabasco with the same recipe, using the same techniques, for nearly 150 years.
Avery Island is also home to Jungle Gardens, a wildlife and garden preserve originally established by Edward McIlhenny, son of the creator of Tabasco sauce, back in 1895.
Know Before You Go
Avery Island is 140 miles west of New Orleans. Self-guided tours of Jungle Gardens are available. Check the website for tour hours, fees, and information.