If you need an excuse to indulge in ice cream, summer is it. Be daring. Sample all the exotic and seasonal flavors that ice cream parlors are scooping up these steamy days.

Baskin-Robbins, the pioneer in flavor invention (500 in all since 1945), will test it latest concoctions this summer. In June and July look for Trail Mix (raisins, coconut and nuts in chocolate ice cream); July and August bring a salute to the Olympics with Decathalemon (lemon ice cream).

Bob's Famous Homemade Ice Cream (2416 Wisconsin Av, NW) already has a steady following for its Oreo cookie ice cream (with Oreo cookies crushed into it), but summer promises the addition of mango, papaya and other fruity combinations to the list.

At Didi's Homemade Ice Cream Parlor (1075 Seven Locks Rd., Rockville), expect the unexpected. Whatever owner George Dimopoulos comes across at the market one day is likely to be whipped up into ice cream the next, including the regular run of summer fruits and such unorthodox ingredients as root beer, granola and grape nuts.

Mark the calendar now. Gifford's elusive fresh peach ice cream is projected to be ready by mid-August. Its fresh banana ice cream is also a rare treat. "We peel the bananas here," proclaims owner Robert Gifford. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By John Pack