Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Avery Island and New Iberia, Louisiana

 In 1865 Edmund McIlhenny received pepper plants from Central America which, over time, he grew on 700 acres of the island. He figured out that by mashing the plants, adding salt, fermenting the mash for three years and then adding vinegar made for some mighty fine hot pepper sauce. As we drove up to the Tabasco factory the pungent smell of vinegar greeted us. We were given a tour of the factory where we saw one big vat of the mash and vinegar being stirred (that mixture needs to be stirred for 28 days), and we also were able to observe the sauce being bottled to be sent around the world. Avery island, location of the Tabasco factory, sits on a salt dome, the largest of five salt domes in Louisiana. Recently oil and gas has been found adjacent to the salt dome on Avery Island. Pipelines were laid carefully out, by-passing the live oaks. A wildlife refuge, Jungle Gardens, is also a part of the island. Below is a picture of the lagoon in the Chinese Garden there.
The gardens are quite beautiful even at this time of the year. There is a grove of camellia bushes in the park which are blooming presently. I found the white camellia flowers especially very striking as they peek out from among the Spanish moss hanging from a live oak tree.
In New Iberia, a town located about ten miles from the island, we toured the oldest rice mill in the United States. There we were able to sample one of their products, wild pecan rice. At least that tasted a bit better than the tabasco ice cream which we had tried earlier in the day!

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