Monday, March 24, 2014

English Idiots Hold Annual Stinging-Nettle Eating Contest

Over the course of one hour on the Saturday before the 2002 summer solstice, Simon Sleigh, an organic vegetable farmer from the village of Hawkchurch in Devon, England, crammed 76 feet of stinging nettles down his ravenous maw. The notion of ingesting nettles in some form isn’t odd, given the ubiquity and touted health benefits of teas, infusions, and even beers made from the weed. But eating the plant straight is another matter. Spiny stalks aside, each nettle leaf is tipped with thousands of microscopic hairs that, when brushed, detach as needles and inject a cocktail of irritating chemicals into whatever flesh tries to disturb them. The tongue and throat are abraded. The mouth turns black. And sometimes the nettles start to ferment in the gut with an audible gargling noise.

Sleigh wasn't alone. He embarked on this test of endurance alongside several dozen others and a crowd of hundreds who’d turned up for one of southern England’s numerous bizarre spring traditions: Dorset’s own World Nettle Eating Championship, in the town of Marshwood.

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