Postcard: Picking Tabasco Peppers on Avery Island, LA

Anna Stockwell

It’s pepper harvesting season at the Tabasco factory on Avery Island, LA. These pepper fields have been tended and harvested for sauce-making by members of the McIllhenny family since the mid-1860s, and every family member and factory worker I met had plenty of inspiring stories about Tabasco’s legacy. As I toured the fields under the hot afternoon sun last week, I learned how to find the peppers that are ready for picking: only specimens of the very brightest red shade should be pulled off the stem. Novice pickers are given “le petit baton rouge” — a stick with the ripe red shade painted on it — to match against the growing peppers. If the stripe matches, it’s time for the pepper to go into the basket. — Anna Stockwell