The World Nettle Eating Championships
World nettle eating championships
It's probably one of Dorset's most unusual events, but competitors come from all over the world. Welcome to the World Nettle Eating Championships - one hour of eating as many stinging nettles as your stomach can bare!
Held as part of a charity beer festival at the Bottle Inn in the village of Marshwood near Crewkerne, the event attracts entrants from around the world.
As the competition's fame has spread, nettle eaters from as far as New York, Australia, Northern Ireland and Belgium make the trip to West Dorset.
As the huge bunches of stinging nettles arrive, the competitors face one hour of munching their way through the leaves, and the winner is whoever finishes with the most two foot stalks, stripped of their leaves.
Showing the effects of nettle eating!
Not surprisingly, the rules are tight for this level of competitive nettle eating.
Only nettles provided by the organisers can be eaten, competitors are not allowed to bring their own, no mouth numbing substances are permitted - although a swig of beer in between mouthfuls is always encouraged.
And for spectators, it makes for a bemusing sight. Competitors have described their unusual bar meal as tasting like anything from "rancid salad with no dressing" to "a mixture of spinach and cow-pat".
Contestants ready to eat their greens
Crucially, nettles can't be expelled from the body. In previous years, a competitor seemed to have victory in sight, only to see his efforts end up on the ground of the pub car park just minutes from the end of the competition.
A previous winner of the contest is Ed Brooks, a regular at the Bottle Inn. He won the contest by scoffing 48 feet of nettles and was thrilled with winning the title: "Oh it's tremendous, amazing... I'm a bit peckish though!".
Meanwhile Jo Carter from Weymouth and Liz Gray from Bath once both shared the women's title - they both ate exactly 26 feet of nettles.
Nettle eating winners
How it began
What has turned into one of England's most eccentric weekends stems back to an argument in the pub in 1986 when two farmers were discussing who had the longest stinging nettles in their field.
The longest-nettle competition eventually turned into the World Nettle Eating Championships when one of the farmers, Alex Williams, promised to eat any nettle which was longer than his.
Although competitive nettle eating is something some may not seem as very palatable, nettles have been used by many top chefs, nettle tea is widely available, and they have long been used as a medicinal herb.
The 2009 contest is on Saturday 13 June - more details on The Bottle's website (link on the right hand column)
last updated: 01/06/2009 at 10:44