Strange World Championships. Another in the series of explaining British eccentricity.

May 29, 2013


Nettle Eating Championships.

So far in my Blogs on the eccentric habits of the British I have tended to stick close to my home patch, here in the Cotswold Hills of Gloucestershire. There is, as you have seen already, enough eccentricity in our county to fill the encyclopaedia section under‘N’ for Nutcase.

However I started to think why brand my own county as the Nut capital of Britain when there are crazy lunatic events taking place all over our country, surely they deserve their share of the spotlight.

How about the World Nettle Eating Championships for starters ?

And yes we are talking about the ‘Stinging’ variety here, would I bore you with the wimpish non-stinging plant ? I think not.

No, the one I’m talking about is the one that has attractive green leaves that only look harmless. However, to provide a defense against grazing animals, these leaves are covered with brittle hollow hairs that produce formic acid. A gentle brush against a stinging nettle is enough to break the hairs causing a painful rash on the skin.

I’m an expert on nettles, I have chased and been chased with the rotten things. I have accidently fallen into and been pushed into them on more times than I care to remember.

Plus I have it on very good authority from a lady friend who got caught short one dark night on the way home from the local pub, that stinging nettles sting just as well in the dark as they do in the daylight! She shall remain anonymous to spare her blushes.

So now you know the plant I’m talking about and possibly remembering your own brush with them why would you then go and put one in your mouth ? Or worse, go onto to spend an hour eating the rotten things ?

But that is exactly what they do at the Bottle Inn in the village of Marshwood near Crewkerne in the county of Dorset held annually as part of a charity beer festival.

As eccentric as it sounds this particular event doesn’t have an ancient historical explanation, more a down to earth argument between a couple of farmers in 1986 as they discussed who had the longest stinging nettles in their field.

The longest-nettle argument eventually turned into the World Nettle Eating Championships when one of the farmers promised to eat any nettle which was longer than his.
Not surprisingly, the rules are tight for this level of competitive nettle eating this is after all for the World Championship.

The rules

Huge bunches of stinging nettles arrive, the competitors, both male and female, 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.

Only nettles provided by the organiser’s can be eaten, no mouth numbing substances are permitted – although a swig of beer in between mouthfuls is always encouraged, it is a British Pub after all !

Nettles cannot be expelled from the body ( no throwing up).
Previous winners have munched their way through, wait for it:

Male winner 48 feet and for the Ladies, there was a tie between two ladies eating 26 feet.

Stop shaking your heads in wonderment at the sheer lunacy of the British and asking is there nothing they won’t turn into a sport I would like to add that as the competition’s fame has been spread through the Internet and TV news programmes on slow news days,, nettle eaters from as far as New York, Australia, Northern Ireland and Belgium make the annual trip to West Dorset.

Just in case you were wondering it is the same plant that more naturally has other more traditional use and in folk medicine, the dried herb and fresh plant juice have been used as diuretics, astringents and blood builders, and to treat anaemia. It is after all very high in iron.

Powdered leaves or fresh leaf juice can be applied to cuts to stop bleeding. or to make a tea to reduce excessive menstrual flow, as well as to treat nosebleeds and haemorrhoids. (The mind boggles ! Or at least mine does )!

Nettle tea has been used to stimulate blood circulation and as a spring tonic for chronic skin ailments and traditionally it has been used for the treatment of mild acne and eczema. It is also a well known folk treatment for arthritis.

2 Responses to “Strange World Championships. Another in the series of explaining British eccentricity.”

  1. laurie27wsmith Says:

    Ooh, ooh, you would have to be keen. Not for me though Merlin, maybe an apple pie eating contest. As to haemorrhoids, I remember a story a work mate told, he had a pulled muscle and piles. He bought wintergreen ointment and a pile remedy from the chemist, this was in the days when chemists provided ointment in small round cardboard containers. A painful pile attack in the middle of the night and he grabbed the ointment and put it on in the bathroom. He used the wintergreen, he reckons his piles never came back, I thought they’d be afraid to.

  2. merlinfraser Says:

    My grandfather went his doctor with hemorrhoids and the doctor prescribed a course of suppositories to cure his problem.

    Two weeks later the doctor asked if his condition had improved and Granddad had to admit that it hadn’t.

    The doctor sounded surprised, suppositories usually work in just a few days….

    Grandfather replied, those bloody things I might as well have shoved them up my arse for all the good they did !!!

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