Every year a group of people gather together to chew through two foot long stalks of stinging nettles. According to the competition rules, they have one hour to eat as many leaves as possible and beat the current champion nettle-eater. The winner is the person with the longest length of empty stalk.
This wonderfully bizarre English competition stems from an argument between two farmers in the mid-1980s over who had the longest stinging nettles.
I know it sounds mad, but stinging nettles make great tea. The first time my fellow vegetarian colleague tried to make me drink nettle tea I was far from convinced – it has an unfortunate smell like sweaty feet and looks like pond water – but the dark green liquid has an abundance of health related properties. Even the Romans used it to cure chronic rheumatism by flogging each other with the stingers.
It can soothe allergic reactions such as hay fever and gargled it can heal a sore throat. Nettles are also very useful when suffering from the alcoholic excess of a night before. These soft yet prickly leaves have been used for hundreds of years as a folk remedy, brewed as teas, steamed and eaten like spinach or applied to the skin as a painkiller.
I’m not suggesting we all hurry out in search of wasteland to pluck these weeds from the ground and start beating each other with the stalks or chewing them, but there’s something to be said for natural remedies.