Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter 2000 1333 The Flyer Magazine

Mother and Daughter


A former Queenstown mother and daughter combo is maximising the benefits of the naturally-occurring elderflower tree locally by turning the flowers and berries into a growing enterprise.

Now living in Wanaka, Barbara East and daughter Laura Rawlings, 30, recently quit their career paths to work full-time on their flourishing elderflower business, ‘Mother And Daughter’. They also recently launched a gourmet lollipop business, ‘Suck It And See’.

British-born Barbara grew up on elderflower cordial, which she says is still huge in her homeland. “Elderflower is still incredibly popular in England, probably the biggest-selling soft drink, even more so because Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had a lemon elderflower wedding cake with an elderflower syrup drizzle and meringue buttercream with elderflower on top,” says Barbara. “Elderflower soft drink is a huge tradition in England. We were all brought up on it.”

The actual elderberry is harvested in January after the flower, which is ready to pick in October. Barbara and Laura produce cordial from the flowers and syrup from the berries, all foraged for around the Queenstown Lakes District and Central Otago. “If we see it growing in farmers’ paddocks or on big estates we find the owners, ask for permission and they always say, yes, in exchange for elderflower cordial,” says Barbara. “There are some beautiful properties with great big stands of elderflower on the Crown Range.”

Most property owners don’t realise that they’re sitting on this miracle remedy, she says. There are huge amounts of elderflower in the district. Many farmers don’t even know they have it on their properties, she says.

“We use masses of elderflowers and infuse them in sugar syrup along with fresh New Zealand lemons. We let that sit for quite a while until all the beautiful flavours of the flowers and the pollens have infused into the syrup,” she says. “Elderflower has its own distinctive taste. It’s very fragrant with a sweet, summery flavour – a lovely lip-smacking taste,” says Barbara, who’s clearly hooked.

Mother and daughter, Barbara (left) and Laura toast the elderflower.

Renowned for centuries as an ancient medicinal herb, elderflower was used to combat everything from hayfever to respiratory conditions and also as an effective antiseptic and anti-inflammatory treatment. It’s full of antioxidants and flavonoids. The elderberry in particularly is revered for its medicinal properties and is thought to boost the immune system, helping to ward off colds and flu so has been selling well amid the Covid-19 crisis.

The royal wedding elderflower cake craze has caught on locally too with Mother And Daughter’s elderflower cordial making for delicious flavouring in cakes at several cafes, wedding and other specialty cakes. It stars at Mrs Ferg Gelateria in the elderflower and gooseberry sorbet and in Wanaka-based Pure NZ’s elderflower sorbet. It’s also used in soft drinks and cocktails at a Wanaka local bar and restaurant. It’s even becoming a popular non-alcoholic option for toasts at weddings at The Winehouse in Gibbston with sparkling water or soda added.

The elderberry syrup is made by cooking the harvested berries and then adding blackcurrants or black plums before pressing them to make a delicious deep purple syrup. It makes great drinks or a drizzle topping on yoghurt, pancakes or ice cream.

Barbara and Laura started out five years ago in Wanaka making their pure spray-free elderflower cordial before experimenting with different home-grown flavours. Their elderflower and rhubarb cordial is now their second biggest seller. Other elderflower cordial flavours feature organic blackcurrant, raspberry and peach as well as lemon and ginger.

By late last year they’d gained enough momentum, selling at local Farmer’s Markets and to some stores, for Barbara to quit her fulltime job as Queenstown Lakes District Council records manager, after 17 years working for the council. Laura completed her Bachelor of Education after travelling but is now working fulltime with her mum and in her own jewellery business.

Their ‘Suck It And See’ business, named after the English expression, is also taking off with some 30 flavours of gourmet lollipops already really catching on. The alcoholic versions, including the likes of Margarita, Cosmopolitan, White Russian, gin and tonic and Strawberry Daiqueri have been very popular, says Barbara, as have the likes of crème brulee, peanut butter and jelly, cucumber and mint and birthday cake. “They just went off at Christmas time in the markets. People were taking handfuls for stocking fillers,” she says. They even put people’s photos inside the lollipops, if requested, to commemorate special occasions like birthdays, weddings or graduations.

And there are no family tiffs on the job. “We get on fantastically,” says Barbara. As yet they haven’t had to take on any extra help, managing to still do the elderflower harvest – the highlight of their business – themselves. “We look forward to that,” she says. It’s the best part.”