Carrie Murphy

As our warm spring weather heats up into the sweaty summers we've come to expect here in Baltimore, my tastebuds naturally start to crave summer treats: that is, the cold and the sweet. Everyone screams for ice cream, of course, but my favorite dessert to cool down with on a hot August day has to be that quintessentially Baltimore product: the snowball.

Did you know that snowballs may have originated in Baltimore? That's right: during the Industrial Revolution, icehouses in the colder North would sell huge blocks of ice to locations in the South. And of course, the ice traveled through Baltimore, where children would beg the truck attendants for a little shaving of ice, which the children would then flavor with syrups and other toppings. Legend has it that this is how the snowball was born, although no one really knows for sure. Apparently the Baltimore favorite flavor egg custard came about when Baltimore mothers needed to mix up a quick treat for their children: egg custard is simply vanilla, sugar, and eggs. 

There's some debate about what a snowball really is: as we understand it, a snowball is finely shaved ice (more like the consistency of well, a ball made from snow). Elsewhere, our beloved snowballs are called snowcones, but we think there's actually a palpable difference between the two, because the ice in a snowcone is usually heavier, chunkier, and crunchier. Spelling is subject to change, as we've seen "snoball" and" sno-ball" just as often as the classic "snowball." Baltimore's Koldkiss company sells snow ball/cone materials, including the flavored syrups and the machines used to crush or shave the ice.

Most Baltimoreans have summer memories of standing outside the rickety snowball stand, carefully trying to choose from the large roster of flavors. Growing up just north of the city, I frequented the snowball stand in front of the old Caldor on York Rd (that shopping center now holds an office building, Petco, Party City, and more). My favorite snowball flavor is Skylite, with a hefty topping of marshmallow; I don't think I've ordered another combination since I was a child.

There don't seem to be as many neighborhood snowball stands around as there were when I was young, but there are still quite a few places serving flavored ice that are worth a visit. Uncle Wiggly's in Towson has a large variety of flavors, including ice cream. We really like their outdoor seating, too. There's also Snoasis in Cockeysville, which seems to be a really popular option. In Hamilton, One Sweet Moment offers over 100 different flavors including sour snowballs, diet snowballs, and snowballs made with Hershey's syrups. Another great one is Summer Shack Snowballs in Greenspring Station.

Do you have a favorite snowball stand in your neighborhood? Let us know where to find it!

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