Tabasco is the only cultivar from this species commercially grown in the US, and virtually all are used in the making of the well-known bottled hot sauce, of the same name.
This chile is very thin, small, and red or yellowish.
Its unique flavour is brought out during a special fermentation process carried out since 1868 at Avery Island, in Louisiana, which is the projecting peak of a subterranean mountain of salt.
To make the infamous Tabasco sauce, the McIlhenny Company takes the by-products of their peppers — the seeds and the pulp — dehydrates them, and then sells them to companies that extract the oils.
Known as oleoresin, the concentrated capsaicin easily measures 1,000,000 Scoville units,
compared to the 40,000 of the pepper sauce.
For many people, just one drop is sufficient to spice a whole cauldron of boiling shrimp.
The oleoresin is so hot that handling requires special safety measures, including gloves and goggles.
It is the resin that goes into the making of topical muscle relaxants, candies, and chewing gums.
Tabasco, more than any other pepper, has become particularly vulnerable to plant diseases. This is because the plant is confined to southern Louisiana and, without the infusion of genes from other peppers, has a narrow genetic makeup.
Consequently, farmers and the Tabasco manufacturers never know from one year to the next if their peppers will be available or if the fields have succumbed to another virus which usually lurk in the surrounding weeds and brush. These viruses, carried by aphids or plant lice, will attack all kinds of peppers, however.