Spring Screams Ice Cream

Keeping up with the changes at Herrell’s.

Some 30 minutes into a massive milkshake craving, I knew there was little chance I’d get through the 70-something degree summer-like afternoon—happily through the afternoon, at least—without heading to Herrell’s and having a black and white frappe for lunch.

Seasonal changes can be particularly tied to gastronomic desires. The cool autumn air that tells the leaves to change color equally demands that I enjoy a warm apple cider. A hot, humid afternoon calls for the ingesting of an immense amount of fruit juice, particularly of the pineapple, mango, or coconut variety. And with the regularity of whatever time can be accurately measured in accordance with the fickle weather of New England, those first few warm spring days scream out for ice cream.

Steve Herrell started Steve’s Ice Cream in 1973, sold the name Steve’s in 1977, and opened Herrell’s in 1980. His store has been a Valley institution ever since.

Having turned 70 this month, Steve is now semi-retired. “He’s on sabbatical,” his daughter Judith Herrell tells the Advocate.

This year, after nearly 35 years in business, Herrell’s is entering the 21st century, the window sign in their Thornes Market shop quips, and is finally accepting credit cards. There are a few other technological advances. Ice cream aficionados can call the store and leave their own personal flavor request list. And, miraculously enough, Herrell’s is exploring offering ice cream through mail delivery as well.

But really, it’s all about the flavors—255 of them and counting.

“I’d like us to get to 366 total flavors,” continues Judith. “One for each day, even on a leap year.”

Herrell’s offers 38 flavors on any given sundae day. Sixteen of them are regular flavors. The other 22 are rotated in and out of circulation from their pool of over 200. In the past three months alone, they have added 12 more flavors to their mix.

“Birch Beer is very popular,” says Judith. “Also, Snow Day [white chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips and marshmallows] and BLT [berry, lemon and thyme].” They are also working more with non-sweet ingredients that aren’t typically associated with ice cream, like basil and jalepeño, she adds.

Like all great creations, new ice cream flavors come from a variety of inspirations. Some are from combinations of already established flavors. Others are formed from an idea for a new name.

When she was a young girl, for instance, Judith told her father of her friend’s observation that many names given to things use the word “boys” instead of “girls.” As a contrast to boysenberry, therefore, she came up with the name Girlsenberry.

Which strikes me as the perfect flavor for a hot—but not humid—day in early May.

(Originally appeared in the Valley Advocate.)

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