TA BASS CO Statue
Around mid-morning we left Baton Rouge for Avery Island, the home and birthplace of Tabasco®. It’s about 85 miles southwest from where my parents live. It’s a fascinating area full of history.
Avery Island (Wikipedia link) is one of five salt domes that can be found in Louisiana. It is approximately 5 miles (3 km) long and 2 ½ miles wide. Our guide told us that that the dome is deeper than Mt. Everest is high. Wow! It has one of the largest salt mines in the world. The indigenous American Indians were probably the first humans to extract the salt from the dome through evaporation of brine water.
Today, the island (it really is an island), in addition to the salt mine, houses the manufacturing facilities for Tabasco® brand products (Wikipedia link), has a rich botanical garden and a bird sanctuary.
We toured the Tabasco plant first. I grew up with Tabasco. It’s a staple in Louisiana and is typically found with the salt and pepper on every table. The ingredients are simple: Tabasco peppers (Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco), salt and vinegar. The peppers and salt are ground up into a mash and aged in white oak barrels for up to 3 years. The vinegar is added and stirred for about a month. The sauce is strained and then bottled. That wonderful flavor comes from three ingredients!
After the tour, we tried many of the Tabasco products in the country store. We also shared some crawfish etouffee, hot link sausage, boudin, Tabasco ice cream and Tabasco soda. Hmmmmm! All were very good.
We toured the Jungle Gardens which is a huge botanical garden built up with exotic plants and local species by E. A. McIlenny (Mr. Ned for short). The best time of the year to go is March as many of the species are blooming at this time. Today we saw multiple species of camellias, bamboo forest, very old live oaks covered in Spanish moss, cypress forests and many palm varieties. Unfortunately, the alligators that live there were buried in the mud because the sun wasn’t out.
Bridge Near Buddha
In 1936, friends of Mr. Ned gave him a Buddha statue from China that is centuries old. It now stands in a beautiful area of Jungle Gardens surrounded by water on three sides. Very unusual. It must stand 8 feet high.
Another amazing part of the gardens is Bird City. Mr. Ned found this bird colony around 1895 to save the white egret which had been hunted to near extinction for its plumage. He raised 8 birds here and then released them for the fall migration across the Gulf of Mexico. They returned the next year and brought some of their friends. The colony now hosts numerous bird species that return in the early spring to roost.
I highly recommend this unusual place. It’s close to New Orleans and Baton Rouge and makes for an excellent day trip. Try to visit during March or April.