This is the first of a two-part blog post on how to plant, grow and bottle your own Tabasco sauce.
That idea stuck with me last season as I was deciding what to plant in my garden. I thought about all the assorted bottles of sauces and small jars of accompaniments taking up space on the shelf in the fridge and landed on my favorite: Tabasco sauce.
Because that large bottle is my go-to favorite for spicing up soups, adding a zing to curry and sloshing on dirty rice, I decided to plant, grow, and bottle my own.
It was about this time last year when I set my sights on homegrown, homemade Tabasco sauce and I kept that in mind as I shopped for seeds in the piles of gardening catalogs that stack up so nicely right after the first of the year. I found authentic Tabasco seeds in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog.
If you’re interested in bottling your own Tabasco sauce, now’s the time to place your order for seeds.
Pepper seeds take a bit longer to sprout than some other vegetables so plan on starting them about 8-10 weeks ahead of planting time. I started what I thought were plenty of seeds, but only a few plants sprouted. (A good reminder to always plant more than you think you’ll need.)
Last spring was an especially chilly one around here so I waited until after the first of June to transplant one Tabasco plant into my container garden. I could have waited even longer. Peppers are tropical plants and they prefer a very warm climate, so that wee bit of chill in early June set the Tabasco back several weeks.
But once it took off, it did extremely well in a large container placed in the sunniest corner of the patio. I kept it watered and fertilized throughout the season.
Tabasco peppers are cute because they’re small and grow standing straight up on the plant. I picked one green one from the plant in August and taste-tested it. These peppers were going to make a tasty hot sauce!
Of all the pepper plants I grew last summer, the Tabasco plant took much longer than the others to ripen. I waited as long as the weather allowed before bringing the container inside and placing it on a south-facing windowsill so the peppers could ripen to a brilliant red on their own.
It’s important to wait for these peppers to get the right shade of red before making sauce. In fact, professional growers use a special stick called a “baton rouge” to judge when the peppers are ripe-red and ready to pick.
Next: How to Make Tabasco Sauce