Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Down in Arcadiana

So yesterday I came down to one of my favorite areas: Southern Louisiana or Arcadiana, which is the name given to French Louisiana. You know, Cajun Country. Last year we had some contract research in rice, sugarcane, soybeans and cotton, with some excellent and encouraging results. You can read about it in the Research Report on the web site. So I came down to line up our work for this year and meet with the researchers. Below is a plot area where we will have rice and soybeans. Can't tell much now in this field, but I'll show pictures again this summer when I make another visit. Last year in a blog account, I lamented that we were too late for a visit to the home of the original Tabasco Sauce: the McIlhenny company on Avery Island. Well this year, due to Reid's excellent driving, we were able to get there before closing. Below we see sales account manager Reid, myself, and regional sales manger Dave in front to the office and plant building, before the last tour of the day.
The tour told about the long history of tabasco, first made here in 1868 (I think) and how it is made today from that same recipe. Did you know that the sauce is aged in old Jack Daniels barrels for 3 years? (The tour lady did not know why they scraped the barrels out first, and she volunteered to help with the scraping, but hasn't been asked). Anyway, it is sold in many countries around the world which means placing the appropriate label on the bottle. Today they were bottling for Germany. I was impressed by how clean the bottling room was, like a lab or something.

Here is an aerial view of Avery Island. Well, it's actually a picture of the model. But this island is actually the top of a salt dome. A salt dome is literally a dome of salt that has pushed up from deep in the earth. She said that this one is as deep as Mt. Everest is tall. That salt is used in the barreling process to seal the barrels. Not all of the tabasco pepper plants are grown on the island, as much is grown in Central and South America. But all of the seeds used for those plants comes from plants grown here. Very interesting.

And what is a main reason that Dr. Wilhm likes to come to Arcadiana, specifically Lafayette? Well to sample the Cajun cuisine of course! It is early in the crawfish season, and it is a great time to order that. We made another visit to Randol's, and I had my first dinner of boiled crawfish. After learning the technique for meat extraction from Reid, as well as for sucking the head (that doesn't sound right, does it?) I dove into the pile before me. (Dave chickened out and ordered crab.) Of course I enjoyed it, but next time I may order something with more variety, to enable more eating options. You just can't get this at home, but that's why it is so good when I am there. And there was a cajun band playing to accompany the devouring of food. A very good time indeed. Smelled a little, ok, a lot fishy when done.

Today it was back to work. We visited with a dealer of Liquid there for product and research updates. (They were pleased with the results.) Then off to another researcher where we will again have sugarcane and cotton in the field below. They say that it is abnormally warm so far this spring and the cane is starting to grow bigger than it should. There is always the chance of a late freeze. Weather always rules. They had drought and heat last summer, and we don't want any of that this year.

Now I'm in the Alexandria airport waiting to head back to the NCRS.