About Geoff

aboutgeoff

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715
Twitter: @DannGeoff

I am a fungi and foraging expert, teacher and writer based in Hastings.  I spend my autumns accompanying small, self-assembled groups (families, groups of friends, couples) on walks in search of fungi, usually on public access land.  I also collaborate with landowners to offer longer foraging courses for larger groups.  In the evenings I give talks, and bring a selection of whatever is currently available for people to try.  I am also available for foraging and fungi/plant ID sessions at all times of the year.

How did I end up doing this? The short version is that I had no other job, people were asking me to do it, and it seemed stupid to say no.

The long version starts with a childhood spent roaming the Surrey Downs, always aware of the wildlife around me and always fascinated by it. The foundations of a deeper, more scientific understanding of the natural world were laid in 1979. This was the year that Voyagers I and II flew past Jupiter and sent back pictures that stunned the world, and if that wasn’t enough to capture the imagination of ten-year-old Geoff, David Attenborough’s “Life on Earth” surely was. My teenage years were largely spent watching science on TV, reading popular science books and magazines, and I chose three sciences for my A-levels. The only other thing I was really interested in was music.

My particular fascination with fungi did not take off until I was in my late teens and decided, as you do, to go searching for liberty caps or “magic mushrooms.” I didn’t find any for quite a while, but I did find all sorts of other fungi, and since cultivated mushrooms were already one of my favourite foods and since I was already the sort of person who wants to know what the wild things actually are, I tried to identify whatever I did find, especially if it looked like it might taste nice. This involved me, a book (the first edition of “Mushrooms” by Roger Phillips, without which it would have been impossible), and a great deal of caution. There was nobody to teach me, no internet to consult, and so I had to teach myself.

I did have a proper job once. I was a software engineer. For fifteen years I worked for companies making flight simulators and other hi-tech training equipment for the military. Foraging for fungi was my hobby, and I would go out two or three times every autumn – sometimes more, sometimes skipping a year – and learn something new each time. Obviously I also just came across a lot of fungi by accident, as you do, which is how I ended up knowing about the common species which appear at other times of the year.

Perfect chicken-of-the-woods specimen, June 2013. Yes, it is safe to eat when growing on yew!

Perfect chicken-of-the-woods specimen, June 2013. Yes, it is safe to eat when growing on yew!

In 2004 I was made redundant. I had a large amount of equity in my house in Brighton, no dependents, and decided to spend the next three years doing something just because I wanted to, and that was to study philosophy at Sussex University. Whilst this proved to be a most rewarding experience, it didn’t do much to help my employment prospects after I finished the course in 2008 and I ended up doing various temporary and part-time jobs. Then late in the summer of 2009, with time on my hands, I set myself the task of systematically searching Sussex for every species of edible, poisonous or common fungus that I couldn’t remember having found and identified. I also did this just because I wanted to; it was not intended as a career move. It just so happened that a friend of mine was also made redundant around that time, and was more than happy to accompany me on some of my walks that autumn. In doing so he provided me with my first experience of teaching somebody else about foraging for fungi, and he also alerted to me to the growing interest in the UK in foraging for other things. At the same time, in order to improve and test my own fungi knowledge, I started following and contributing to what was being posted on a website called WildMushroomsOnline.co.uk.

2009 turned out to be a very good year for fungi, and by the end of that autumn both my friend and the owner of the website were suggesting that I offer to teach people about fungi foraging. I took my first customers out near Guildford in September 2010, and we found a penny bun within ten metres of where we’d parked the cars, rapidly followed by a collection of russulas and a fly-laden stinkhorn; I was off the mark. From there things have snowballed – mushroomed – on their own.

In the spring of 2011 I also started paying serious attention to foraging for plants and seaweeds, and being more experimental with roadkill (my first roe deer was back in about 1999.) I am now committed to a full-time career as an expert and teacher on the topics of fungi that can be identified with five senses (and nothing more), foraging and wild food in general, other uses of wild fungi and plants, all with a slant dictated by my underlying interest in science, ecology and sustainability.

In 2016 my first book was published – the most comprehensive book available on British and northern European fungi foraging.

Geoff in the media:

Interview and dawn forage with BBC Radio Kent, December 2014 (the making of)
Interview on BBC Radio October 2014 Mark Forrest Show
ITV news – ten foraging tips by Geoff
ITV news – fungi poisoning story
Mouth magazine
The Telegraph

17 thoughts on “About Geoff

  1. keith Lewis

    congratulations Geoff on the new website.
    you took me and my wife Minoo out foraging end of last year for the first time ever, and we had a great day.
    we were eating winter chanterelles for over a week, and loved every dished prepared with them.
    Xmas presents were dead easy. BOOKS and books of mushroom foraging and identification!
    thanks to you you really stimulated our interest in this new and fascinating world.
    no doubt we will catch up with you sometime later in the year.
    all the best
    Keith

    Reply
  2. Pearl

    Hi Geoff

    I came across your website whilst looking for an alternative way to clean cauliflower fungus. My husband and I have been amateur foragers for many years and have avoided poisoning ourselves thus far. 😉 We have been foraging and eating our edible fungus finds for many years now and also use Roger Phillips, Peter Jordan and the Collins Wild Guide to help with identification, although we are fairly confident on the varieties we eat and tend to stick to the ones we know. Although this year has been a bit sparse on the mushroom front due to the relatively dry summer, we did manage to find some chanterelles, milk caps, yellow russulas, hedgehog fungus and a cep in Sussex yesterday. Thanks for the link to WildMushroomsOnline. I’ll go have a look.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hi Pearl.

      There is no easy way to clean cauliflower fungus. I just submerge the whole thing in water and slowly pick bits out, cleaning as I go.

      Geoff.

      Reply
  3. Kat Stene

    Hi Geoff,

    Just wanted to say a big thank you for this afternoon’s forage, we were all very impressed with the knowledge you have, and the many varieties we managed to find. We had the winter chanterells in a pasta dish for dinner and they were delicious!

    Thanks again,

    Kat

    Reply
  4. Michelle Twin Mum

    Fab to have found your blog. I moves to East Sussex abut 3 months ago and have fallen in love with fungi. Not eaten any of it as I have no idea what I’m looking for but loving taking pictures and there is so much here on the estate I live on. Mich

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Mushrooms | Pearltrees

  6. philip howes

    hi geoff.

    How can you be sure eating COTW from yew trees is safe?

    Is there any documented scientific research?

    I found 2kg in brecon beacons and am umming and arring as whether to eat it.

    cheers

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hi Phillip,

      I am sure because I’ve eaten a ton of it, and fed it to loads of people. Full story is here:

      http://www.geoffdann.co.uk/uncategorized/chyewks-chickens-of-the-wood-on-yew/

      There is no scientific research. That is…there never was any scientific reason to believe it WASN’T safe. It’s a myth.

      However, I do feel I must point out that it’s not good to take 2kg of something you’re not sure you are going to eat! That’s the sort of thing that gets foragers a bad name.

      best wishes

      Geoff

      Reply
    1. Geoff Dann Post author

      HI Jon. I usually tweet (@DannGeoff) and post on my facebook page (Geoff’s fungi and foraging) when I post a new blog entry. Geoff

      Reply
  7. Ross Turner

    Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for a really informative and fruitful session on Saturday the 11th of November 2017.

    We have rely enjoyed our winter chanterelles and hedgehog fungus!!

    We look forward to next years season and getting out with you then!!

    Ross , Stevie, Lyra and Greeta

    Reply

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