No matter which way you slice it (or spice it), pumpkin is the food, scent and decor of the fall season. Luckily, it’s also a very versatile piece of produce.

If one were to ask me what my favorite fall icon is, my answer would probably be the pumpkin. I love them so much, in fact, that my nickname for the person I adore most in this world — my little niece — is, and always will be, Pumpkin Umpkin. My love of pumpkin really centered around its bright orange color and form for most of my life until I tasted the pumpkin squares at Kathleen’s Kitchen here in Sherman some years ago. When I was a child, I had tasted pumpkin pie and decided that it wasn’t for me. I then avoided all things pumpkin flavored on that experience until I tried the pumpkin square and fell in love. Then pumpkin became one of my favorite flavors as well.

In addition to the squares that I love to buy as soon as Kathleen’s Kitchen starts serving them each fall, I became a big fan of pumpkin bread and bagels. I can bake the bread at home, but I have found that bagels are best left to the professionals. Panera Bread in Sherman has some excellent ones each year. Those who are determined to make their own bagels might want to watch Jennifer Garner’s YouTube video on making bagels for some helpful tips.

Of course, those are just a few examples of the foods one can make with pumpkins. Some folks add pumpkin muffins, pancakes, soups and even pasta to the list of ways to use fall’s favorite fruit. But I must confess that my favorite thing to do with pumpkins is decorate. They are hands-down the most versatile object for fall decorating. They can be used inside and outside for decoration and can be a table centerpiece or just one piece of a larger scene.

While many people like to carve up jack-o-lanterns, my favorite way to feature these gourds is to paint them. By spraying painted pumpkin with ceramic glaze, the pumpkins will last from the first day of October through Halloween. I actually had one that made it all of the way to Christmas once, but moving it at that point was a huge mess.

My love of painted pumpkins started with the Sherman Arts Festival decades ago, when one would see a huge stand of them just waiting to be purchased and taken home. I took one look at those and thought, “I can do that.” And I could and I did for years. Each year I made one to put on my desk at work, at least one for my home and made one for friends at work. My mother got to the point where if I didn’t paint one for her to take to work, she asked me if I was mad at her.

Pumpkin painting really went hardcore at my house when God blessed me with a niece who loves to paint as much as I do. My little Pumpkin Umpkin and I have painted the fall stable every year since she was big enough to splash her little hands in finger paints. The great thing about painting a pumpkin instead of carving one is the gooey mess on the inside of the pumpkin stays there, undisturbed. And you can paint anything your heart desires on the outside. Some folks go with a straightforward Jack-o-Lantern face while others paint bright, smiling pumpkins. My niece’s last work of pumpkin art featured a donut painted on top of the pumpkin. So whether you get out paint or carving tools, grab fall’s brightest fruit and welcome the season with a little pumpkin work of art.