Swollen tongues and black mouths: Competitors tuck in at World Nettle Eating Championship

The Bottle Inn in Dorset is the host venue for the annual World Nettle Eating Championship, which invites entrants to eat as many stinging nettles as they can in an hour. Rachael Turner reports.

There’s not much love for the stinging nettle. The bane of summer walks receives little praise for its medicinal properties and is largely shunned and avoided.

But while the majority of us do all we can to keep our distance from the pesky plant, a handful of individuals are doing quite the opposite.

Risking swollen tongues, black-stained mouths and burning hands, the contestants of the World Nettle Eating Championship are lapping up the weed, quite literally.

World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship

Credit: Finnbarr Webster/Getty

The annual competition invites entrants to eat as many nettles as they can in an hour. Taking place at the Bottle Inn in Bridport, Dorset, this year’s contest saw more than 100 spectators enjoying the bizarre event.

The champions — Tony Jeyes in the men’s category and Lindie Rogers in the women’s — consumed 58ft and 44ft of the plant respectively.

Woman’s competition winner Lindie Rogers. Credit: Finnbarr Webster/Getty

Despite this valiant effort, the winners’ results did not come close to the 2018 champion, the aptly named Philip Thorne. Mr Thorne, from Colyton, Devon, first entered the competition as a dare in 2014 and managed 80ft of the plant.

The next time he entered in 2016, he ate 86ft, and on his third attempt he bowed out after chomping an incredible 104ft.

Men’s winner Tony Jeyes collects his prize after eating 29 stalks during the competition at The Bottle Inn. Credit: Finnbarr Webster/Getty

The competition began some 30 years ago when two farmers were sat in a bar comparing the size of their stinging nettles.

‘One of them said, “My nettles are so long this year,” and the other said, “If your nettles are longer than mine then I’ll eat them,”‘ said Pauline Brookes, landlady at the Bottle Inn. ‘It just grew from there, really.’

World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship

Credit: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

Nettles are eaten raw at the championship after being soaked in water overnight to ensure they remain fresh and full of sting.

Some contestants employ tactics to avoid being stung, such as folding the leaves before they are consumed, rubbing their lips with dock leaves, or washing the nettles down with plenty of beer or water.

Former champion Mr Thorne has no time for such measures. His secret to success is ‘lots of cider’.