The term “Ogen melon” is used to refer to several melon varieties, all of which hail from the lovely land of Israel, famous for unusual and distinctive fruit cultivars. These melons range from an especially sweet and lightly netted variety of cantaloupe to an oblong smooth melon which is marked with deep streaks of color. Many markets carry these melons in season, and these melons can also be grown in your garden, if you happen to live in USDA zones four and warmer, although for zones above zone seven, you will want to select rapid-maturing melon varieties.
These melon cultivars are all named for Ogen, a kibbutz in Israel. Kibbutzim are collective communities which focus on farming and other self supporting activities in a friendly community of like-minded people. The Ogen kibbutz developed several unique melon cultivars, selling the melons along with their seeds in Israel and exporting the seeds to the rest of the world to help support the Kibbutz.
In the most common sense, an Ogen melon is a melon which is roughly oblong in shape, with skin which starts out dark green and pales to a yellowish gold as the melon matures, with deep streaks of green, yellow, or orange in the skin. This variety typically develops with grooves along the streaks of color, which run lengthwise all the way down the melon. The flesh inside is pale green to creamy, and extremely sweet and flavorful. The term “Ogen melon” is also used to refer to a variety of thin-skinned cantaloupe.
As with other melons, there are a number of uses for Ogen melon. It can be eaten fresh out of hand, added to fruit salads, and used in fruit ices and sorbets. It can also be paired with various other ingredients as an appetizer, and mixed into fruit punches. You may also hear Ogen melon called “Israeli melon,” and you should select it carefully, looking for a specimen which feels heavy for its size and resounds with a rich hollow sound when tapped.
If you want to grow Ogen melon, clear a warm, sunny spot in the garden out of the breeze, and enrich the soil with compost, loam, and builder's sand. You can either plant seedlings from the garden store or sprout your own; in all cases, plant after the last chance of frost has passed, and keep the young melon plants well watered, fertilizing with fish emulsion to encourage healthy, strong growth. In around 85 days, the plants will yield melons, which will fall off the vine when they are ripe; consider putting boards under your melons as they mature to discourage rot.