Chomping Nettles For A Taste Of Glory Talk about a sore throat: Contestants from all over the planet are gathering Saturday for the annual World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship at a historic English pub. Competitors will try to scarf down as many of the thorny weeds as they can in an hour.
NPR logo

Chomping Nettles For A Taste Of Glory

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105346132/105367066" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Chomping Nettles For A Taste Of Glory

Chomping Nettles For A Taste Of Glory

Chomping Nettles For A Taste Of Glory

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105346132/105367066" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

At the World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship, competitors try to scarf down as many of the thorny weeds as they can in an hour. Courtesy of the Bottle Inn hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the Bottle Inn

People have been eating stinging nettles competitively at the Bottle Inn in Marshwood, England, for nearly two decades. Courtesy of the Bottle Inn hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the Bottle Inn

Talk about a sore throat: Contestants from all over the planet are gathering Saturday for the annual World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship at a historic English pub.

At the Bottle Inn in the Dorset village of Marshwood, competitors will try to scarf down as many of the thorny weeds as they can in an hour.

The bar is set pretty high. Simon Sleigh, from the nearby town of Hawkchurch, holds the record. In 2002, he devoured 76 feet of stinging nettles.

"The way I look upon it is that I think every man needs a hobby," Sleigh tells NPR's Scott Simon.

Not that nettle-eating is a particularly pleasant hobby. Sleigh says the plant tastes downright disgusting.

"Because it's so disgusting you think it can't really be that disgusting, so you persevere with it and see how much you can actually eat," he says. "And the more you eat, the more you realize you were right in the first place — it is disgusting."

Sleigh attributes his penchant for nettle-munching to a peculiar life phase he was going through at the time he set the world record. Since then, he hasn't eaten so much as a leaf.

"I think I was going through some sort of herbal crisis," he says. "And so by confronting the crisis I was going through by eating these nettles, it helped me through. Now I've come out the other side, and to be honest I'm a much better human being as a consequence."

The contest has been happening at the Bottle Inn in some form or another for almost two decades. It started with farmers arguing over who had the longest nettles. One said that if anyone could beat his 15-foot, 6-inch whopper, he would eat it. The rest is history.

As for Sleigh, he's content with his accomplishment and its place in history.

"Maybe three or four years ago I would've said if anybody beats my record, then I'll defend myself against that person the following year," he says. "But to be honest, you reach an age in life where you think, well, I don't really give a damn if somebody beats me."