Monday, June 18, 2007

World Nettle Eating Championship

One of Dorset's craziest events took place over the weekend. It may have left many of the competitors with a strange taste in the mouth, but at the end of the night, a new World Nettle Eating champion was crowned.

The 11th annual contest to find the individual capable of scoffing the most stinging nettles took place as part of a charity beer festival at the Bottle Inn in the village of Marshwood near Crewkerne.

This year the event attracted entries from around the world - as the competition's fame has spread, nettle eaters from as far as New York, Australia, Northern Ireland and Belgium made the trip to West Dorset.

As the huge bunches of stinging nettles arrived, the competitors faced one hour of munching their way through the leaves - the winner was whoever finished with the most two foot stalks, stripped of their leaves.

Not surprisingly, the rules were tight for this level of competitive nettle eating. Only nettles provided could be eaten, competitors couldn't bring their own, no mouth numbing substances were allowed - although a swig of beer in between mouthfuls was encouraged.

As the bemused crowd of hundreds of spectators looked on, the competitors described their unusual bar meal as tasting like anything from "rancid salad with no dressing" to "a mixture of spinach and cow-pat".

Crucially, nettles could not be expelled from the body - at one heartbreaking moment, one 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.

The eventual winner was Paul collins. He scoffed 56 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 shared the womens' title - they both ate exactly 26 feet of nettles.

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.

No comments: