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World Nettle Eating Championships

Get ready to feel the burn.

 
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Stinging nettles can be quite the tasty treat. This, of course, requires first boiling away the poisonous hairs that cover the plant. But at the annual nettle-eating competition in the British village of Marshwood, culinary delight is not a priority. Held in southwest England’s Dorset county, this convivial gathering is no one-time feat: It’s been going on since the 1980s. Allegedly, the entire event originated after two farmers insisted that each had the longest nettles in his yard. The loser had to eat a stalk of them.

Today, the World Nettle Eating Championships attract hundreds of people willing to watch several dozen competitors eat as many blatantly poisonous leaves as they can stomach in one hour (literally, as vomiting is not allowed). The stinging nettle’s stalks and leaves deposit tiny spikes upon contact, each of which injects a cocktail of chemicals that cause burning sensations. Continued consumption causes the skin to blacken and the tongue to swell. Contestants may not bring their own nettles; all consumables are provided by the organizers. The only liquids permitted during the hour of pain are water and beer. Adoring (and horrified) onlookers, along with live music, give the event a festive feel.

In 2018, the appropriately named Phil Thorne consumed 104 feet of stinging nettles, successfully beating his previous record of 96 feet. Mel Long and Rachel Woods tied for first in the women’s competition, each downing around 61 feet of nettles.

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**Look at people in New Orleans having hot chili peppers eating contests. They have and eat peppers that with just a sliver of seed folks feel almost the need to go to a hospital. My co-worker in Atlanta (a BIG tough guy) said when he was in New Orleans they have restaurants with varying degrees of buffalo hotwings (and they MEAN it). He chose to play it safe and ordered the Mild buffalo wings.  He told me he'd had a cold at the time and when eating those "Mild" wings his cold was pretty much gone, i.e., his nose was open and water was just running like a faucet out of his eyes and nose. Those were their Mild wings. He said he'd seen folks get the extra hot wings and after taking one bite they suddenly threw their hands over their mouth and nose and ran out of the restaurant, and nobody saw them again.

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I teach my Cub Scouts how to safely pick and eat nettles. They love it because it's against what they've already learned and it freaks their parents out. The trick of it is to know that the little hairs that cause the sting are angled towards the point of the leaf. When you pick a leaf start at the base and pull towards you, flattening the hairs. Then roll the leaf up, which again flattens the hairs, and pop it into your mouth. Works most times...

 

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