We are well acquainted with the cucumber, grown all over for pickling and salads, but the rare tropical varieties from Sri Lanka and India surprisingly receive far less airtime.
Kekiri, technically classified as a cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is much harder and less sweet than cucumber cultivated in the West and research suggests the variety is more closely related to the melon. Due to its high heat tolerance and keeping time, kekiri is a stand-out variety for growing in dry subtropical and Mediterranean zones. Most of the fruits are orange when mature and have jagged whitish stripes, and are used for cooking, while Seeni Kekiri (Sweet Kekiri) is more yellow in color and can be eaten fresh.
Why is it special?
Besides being an indigenous and often wild cultivar, best adapted to subtropical life, Kekiri is much more flavorful than standard cucumbers and (apparently) really good for you.
In comparison, the cucumbers of my temperate garden days are bland. They are bred for size or texture to hold up to fermentation, but cannot necessarily stand up as a tasty fruit or to the intense spices of a curry. Meanwhile, varieties of Kekiri still rambling and open-pollinating across Sri Lanka have a stronger, slightly more astringent flavor that still pops against the mustard seed, coconut milk, and chilli of a good curry.
Kekiri is also supposed to be a good diuretic to keep urinary systems healthy, as well as a cooling fruit like the cucumber. You might not rush to put slices in your water or on your puffy eyes, but eating it (with maybe a little less chilli) during the hottest months does seem quite refreshing. According to the Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts and the University of Ruhuna Kekiri is used in ayurvedic medicine to treat insomnia, skin diseases, nausea, and urinary problems, among others.
The Good Stuff
Finding a Kekiri recipe online proved difficult and as I am still no pro at Sri-Lankan cuisine, I decided to leave this one to the professionals. While this recipe from the Curry and Comfort Blog shows an actual green cucumber, this is the exact preparation I enjoy for Kekiri.
If you can provide us with more details and/or recipes for Kekiri, please leave a comment below!