If you have ever bought a grocery store cantaloupe, there’s a good chance that you’ve enjoyed the Athena cantaloupe.
In fact, the Athena cantaloupe is the most common commercially grown cantaloupe variety. However, Athena cantaloupes are also hugely popular for home growing.
To learn more about this hardy cantaloupe, let’s dive in.
History of the Athena Cantaloupe
A hybrid fruit, the Athena cantaloupe is technically a muskmelon. In the U.S., most muskmelons are called cantaloupes, but the true cantaloupe is grown mostly in Europe. In short, while all cantaloupes are technically muskmelons, not all muskmelons are considered to be cantaloupes.
Nevertheless, in the U.S., we call most musky and netted muskmelons cantaloupes. Read our guide to learn about the differences between cantaloupes and muskmelons.
The Athena cantaloupe was created and released commercially in 1993 by the Syngenta Seed Company. This cantaloupe variety was created to be grown in the eastern part of the United States. The Athena cantaloupe was specifically bred to stay firm after ripening and is one of the most popular varieties of cantaloupe in the U.S.
There are essentially two types of cantaloupe in the U.S.: western cantaloupes and eastern cantaloupes. Historically, western cantaloupes have been hardier and less prone to perishing. The Athena cantaloupe was bred to create an eastern cantaloupe that is as harder as its western counterparts.
Botanically, this cantaloupe is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family and is a Cucumis melo reticulatus.
Characteristics of the Athena Cantaloupe
Athena cantaloupes belong to the Reticulatus melon group. This group is characterized by a coarse rind and netted skin. The seed cavity is small.
When harvested, Athena cantaloupes have a delightful aroma that resembles ambrosia.
The Athena cantaloupe fruit is firm, orange to yellow in color, oval-shaped, and has a coarse netting pattern on the rind. A fully ripened Athena cantaloupe will weigh between five and six pounds.
The Athena melon plant is a hybrid that is prized by both home and commercial growers for its early yields. Additionally, Athena melons ship well and can be stored for longer periods of time.
One thing to know about the Athena cantaloupe is that it has a longer ripening period than many other varieties of muskmelon or cantaloupe. Because of the extended ripening period, the fruit remains sweet and firm and doesn’t become soft.
Eating the Athena Cantaloupe
In terms of flavor, the Athena cantaloupe has exceptional sweetness. The aromatics of this fruit are honey and floral with a sweet melon aroma. The scent will be most prominent at the stem end.
How to use the Athena cantaloupe in cooking
Generally, cantaloupes are best when eaten fresh and raw. To incorporate any type of cantaloupe into a savory snack or meal, you can try wrapping chunks of juicy cantaloupe in prosciutto. This makes an excellent light lunch, appetizer, or brunch dish.
Another way to use cantaloupes is to roast the seeds. Dried or roasted cantaloupe seeds can be eaten whole and don’t require shelling as sunflower seeds do.
We found this recipe for Athena Melon Raita online. This recipe is an Indian fusion dish that is an excellent side dish for Indian food dinners and BBQ. Ingredients include cumin and tangy Greek yogurt.
Another excellent recipe we found is one for a lime, mint, and Athena cantaloupe chiller cocktail. For this recipe, you need fresh mint leaves, fresh lime juice, sparkling mineral water, honey, and Athena cantaloupe chunks.
What goes well with the Athena cantaloupe?
Cantaloupe chunks, slices, or balls are delicious when served in a fruit salad or on colorful fruit kebabs.
Another tasty way to enjoy cantaloupe is to serve it with sweetened cream cheese fruit dip. This classic and easy fruit dip is made with cream cheese, sweetened frozen whipped cream, and some type of sweet “red juice.” The red juice can be grenadine syrup or the juice from a jar of maraschino cherries.
Other fruits to include with your fruit dip include watermelon, grapes, plums, orange slices, apples, and strawberries.
Health Benefits of the Athena Cantaloupe
When it comes to nutrition, orange-fleshed cantaloupes like the Athena cantaloupe are rich in beta-carotene. When eaten, the human body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A.
In addition to beta-carotene, cantaloupes are also a rich source of the following vitamins and nutrients:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Trace minerals that include calcium, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, thiamin, phosphorus, vitamin B6, niacin, and selenium
On our website, we have an extensive guide on all of the health benefits of cantaloupes.
Growing the Athena Cantaloupe at Home
Athena cantaloupes grow well in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9.
With 85 days to maturity, the Athena cantaloupe plant can be directly sown into the soul between one and two weeks after your region’s last frost.
For fertilizing your cantaloupe plants, you can use all-purpose commercial fertilizer, or you can add organic matter to your soil. Good manure or compost are both excellent options.
On our website, we have a detailed guide on how to grow cantaloupes in your home garden.
Basic planting and growing instructions
To start Anthena cantaloupe seeds indoors, sow the seeds in peat pots or cell plug trays one month before you transplant them outside. In most cases, you can plant three seeds per peat pot or cell plug.
Germinating seeds must be kept at a temperature of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit to grow.
Once your seedlings have emerged, thin them when the first leaves form. Use scissors to cut away weak seedlings so that the hardy seedlings will be the strongest for transplanting.
Growing cantaloupes in colder climates
Gardeners in colder climates can consider growing their Athena cantaloupes in row covers. Row covers help to keep the plants consistently warm. When plants are kept warm, you will enjoy higher yields of fruit and earlier crops.
Row covers offer the added benefit of protecting seedlings and young plants from pests such as cucumber beetles.
Once the plants have female flowers, they’re ready for pollination. At that point, remove the row covers.
Soil and sunlight
Before planting Athena cantaloupe seeds or plants, be sure your soil temperature is minimally 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
For most cantaloupe varieties, the soil pH needs to be between 6 and 6.5.
Cantaloupe plants thrive in full sunlight, and your plants need direct sunlight between eight and 10 hours per day.
Before your plants emerge, keep the seed pots or beds consistently moist. Avoid oversaturating the seeds and seedlings.
Before you transplant your seedlings, reduce the watering and start the process of hardening them off by exposing them to lower temperatures.
Pests and diseases
Primarily, most cantaloupe varieties are subject to these four pests:
- Cucumber beetles
- Squash bugs
To control pests, you can try any of these:
- Diatomaceous earth
- Insecticidal soap
- Neem oil
The Athena cantaloupe has intermediate resistance to powdery mildew and fusarium wilt. However, a few other diseases can affect this cantaloupe in your home garden.
- Alternaria leaf blight
- Powdery mildew
- Mosaic viruses
One thing you can do to help prevent diseases is to avoid overhead watering. Instead, you can use soaker hoses. Additionally, using a fungicide on plants can rid them of some diseases.
To ensure that you have a harvest of large melons, trim your cantaloupe plants to leave just two or three melons for every plant. If you don’t prune your cantaloupe plants, you’ll have several small cantaloupes instead of a couple of nice-sized juicy ones.
Size, spacing, and pollination
If you sow your seeds directly into the soil, plant three seeds at least 18 inches apart. Seeds should be planted about 1/2 inches deep.
Seedlings should be planted in rows that are six inches apart. You need about 18 inches between each seedling.
Harvesting the Athena cantaloupe
Typically, the Athena cantaloupe is ready for harvest approximately 85 days after directly sowing the seeds or 75 days after transplanting.
When a cantaloupe is ripe and ready to harvest, it will slip easily from the vine.
Keep in mind that the ripening period of these cantaloupes will not continue when they are removed from the vine. Therefore, be sure your cantaloupes are fully ripened before harvesting them.
For detailed information about how to tell when your cantaloupes are ripe, check out our guide on this topic.
After harvesting your cantaloupe, keep them in the refrigerator.
Where to Buy Athena Cantaloupes
To buy Athena cantaloupe plants or seeds, check your local nursery when the plants are in season.
You can also find Anthena cantaloupe seeds online at Hoss Tools or via marketplaces like Amazon. You may also be able to find them at your local Home Depot. Order or pick up seeds today and later this summer you’ll be enjoying the sweetest, juiciest cantaloupes you’ve ever tasted — homegrown is always best!
Where to buy the fruit
Keep your eye out for Athena cantaloupes at your local farmer’s market. You can also find this fruit in grocery stores when it’s in season.
Wrapping Up the Athena Cantaloupe
Now that you know all about the Athena cantaloupe, you can explore our other cantaloupe varieties.
Are you growing the Athena cantaloupe? Let us know your experience in the comments or on our social media platforms.