The Storage Atmosphere

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The storage life of fresh produce is strongly affected by the atmosphere that surrounds it. All plant tissues are mostly water, and require a humid atmosphere to avoid drying out, losing turgidity, and damaging their internal systems. Practically, this means it’s best to keep plant foods in restricted spaces—plastic bags, or drawers within a refrigerator—to slow down moisture loss to the compartment as a whole and to the outside. At the same time, living produce exhales carbon dioxide and water, so moisture can accumulate and condense on the food surfaces, which encourages microbial attack. Lining the container with an absorbent material—a paper towel or bag—will delay condensation.