On June 21st, the Bottle House Inn in the West Dorset village of Marshwood, England was host to the 12th annual "Stinging Nettle Eating Contest". As you all probably know, a nettle is a flowering plant, whose leaves are covered with tiny stinging hair that produce an intense stinging pain if touched. Now why would anyone eat that?
Well, it's definitely not for the prize money as there is none. Despite that, the competition attracts people from all over the world, including New York, Australia, Northern Ireland and Belgium. In fact this event has become so popular that tour companies have started offering a two-night camping tour package.
It all began in 1986, when two local farmers were arguing about who had the longest stinging nettle. Overhearing them, the landlady of the Inn decide to hold a competition for the longest nettles in the area. This continued for three years, until Alex Williams, a local resident showed up with his winning 15'6" nettle. He was so sure that his was the longest, that he wowed to eat the nettle if anyone could produce a longer one. Much to his dismay, an American couple came in with a 16' nettle. True to his word, Alex chomped down the winners' nettle and 'Nettle Eating Competition' was born.
The competition rules are quite simple. Competitors are given an hour to eat as much nettle as they can - the one who eats the most wins! However, the participants are not allowed to bring their own nettle, nor does it count if you throw up the nettle before the competition is concluded. Since this event is combined with a beer festival, a swig of beer is encouraged in between the nettle chomping.
This year's overall winner was 28-year old, Paul Collins, a local resident who chomped through 67-feet of nettle. In the women's competition, the winner was 23-year old Sonia Fewkes, also a local resident, who ploughed though 30-feet. Neither managed to get anywhere close to the 76-feet record.
On the positive side, the nettle leaf is very nutritional and contain vitamin C, beta carotene, magnesium, potassium and many other vitamins and minerals. Nettle leaves also have a lot of medicinal properties - In fact, the leaves can be used for so many different things that there is a book entitled '101 uses of Nettle' - outlining them all!
Sources: BBC.com,Bottlehouse Inn.com