In some cities, summer means baseball and base tans.

But in Baltimore and New Orleans, the sticky season has a different marker: snowballs. As the weather warms, locals flock to their favorite stands to watch masters douse balls of shaved ice with a kaleidoscopic array of fruit-based syrups.

Finally, the rest of the country is catching on as snowball shops drift into cities across the nation (click here to see a slide show).

The snowball (or "sno-ball" if you're in New Orleans) is a relative to the snow cone, but calling it such will surely provoke a fight. Snowballs are demarcated by the hyper-fine texture of the ice, which should be powdery enough to approximate fresh snow.

A proper stand will make its own simple syrups, which are then combined with concentrated fruit extracts to produce a parade of flavors. The spectrum ranges from classic cherry to Tiger's Blood--a NOLA signature (which preceded Charlie Sheen's appropriation of the term), which blends strawberry and coconut. In New Orleans, the desserts are often gilded with a squeeze of condensed milk, while Baltimore residents prefer a marshmallow crème crown.

Whichever way you top it, be sure to eat these treats quickly, lest you face a bowl of cold iridescent soup.