A HOUSEWIFE’S PRIMER TO YOSHON
ואכלתם ישן נושן וישן מפני חדש תוציאו
Fresh eggs, fresh spices, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables…..vintage flour! What gives here? Why the ancient flour? The answer starts with a posuk in the Torah. ולחם וקלי וכרמל לא תאכלו עד עצם היום הזה (ויקרא כג יד). It is forbidden to eat food from the new grain crop until the day of the bringing of קרבן עומר. The קרבן עומר was brought during the Yom Tov of Pesach and made permissible all grain product that was planted and took root before Pesach. Today, when we don’t have a קרבן עומר, we wait until the day of the bringing of the עומר passes. The grain that is permitted is referred to as Yoshon – it is from the old crop. The crop planted after Pesach is referred to as Chodosh, the new crop, which will have to wait until the next Pesach to become permitted. According to most Poskim, the laws of Chodosh/Yoshon are applicable whether the grain grew in ארץ ישראל or חוץ לארץ and whether it was grown by a jew or non-jew. (Due to the fact that grain products are a most staple food, it became the custom to rely on leniencies,1,2 when Yoshon product was not available.)
There is a guide published every year, listing the yoshon cut off dates for many grocery products. The guide is published by Mr. Herman of Monsey NY. The first edition of the guide is usually published in late September with two update editions following later in the season. See ordering information below. If you would like to attempt to keep Yoshon this season, it is suggested that you take it upon yourself בלי נדר.
First, a little background. The grains affected by the laws of Yoshon are Wheat, Oats, Barley, Spelt and Rye. Buckwheat, Rice and Corn are not subject to the laws of Yoshon.
Wheat – The most common grain, wheat, is grown in North America as two distinct crops. Winter wheat, which means it is planted in the fall and lies dormant in the ground during the winter. It is harvested in early summer. Since it took root before Pesach, it is a Yoshon grain. Winter wheat is low in gluten and is used in baked goods that are soft and crumbly i.e. crackers, pretzels, matzoh and some cookies. Spring wheat is planted in the late spring and is harvested at the end of the summer. Since it took root after Pesach, it will have to wait until next year’s Pesach to become permitted. Spring wheat is high in gluten and is used in baked goods that are chewy and strongly held together i.e. bread, rolls, and challah. Pasta products are also made from a spring wheat called Durum.
Oats, Barley – These grains are planted after Pesach and are spring crops. They are harvested as early as July. (Please note that Malt is a barley by-product. However, due to aging, it is not used in production until mid-winter – December and perhaps later.)
Rye, Spelt – These grains are planted in the fall and are winter crops. Since they take root before Pesach, they are Yoshon. (Please note that rye bread is made from wheat with some rye added.)
Vinegar – Vinegar generally does not present a Chodosh issue. Therefore, all condiments (ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard) containing vinegar are all acceptable. (Specialty vinegars such as malt and terragon vinegar may be an exception)
Reading The Codes – Generally, all packaged food products contain a production code (not the UPC number), which helps the manufacturer keep track of when the product was produced. It may be a date such as ‘Aug 21’, a number such as ‘265’ representing the number of days into the year, or an alphabet code A18 representing Jan 18 (A=Jan B=Feb). Usually there are other numbers or letters in the code that represent other pieces of information such as factory location, time of day item was produced, shift number etc. A later date and higher number means the product was produced later in the season. The Yoshon Guide lists these production codes telling you the date when the item should be considered Chodosh. Any number or date prior to that is considered Yoshon.
Stocking & Storing – Many products are available throughout the Yoshon season, which runs through Erev Pesach. As you’ll notice in the guide, some items are strictly from winter wheat. Other items such as barley and oats are available through November-December. After that time it’s advisable to inventory your own stock. Sometimes you can find an earlier code date by checking a different size container of the same product. Barley and oats stay best when kept in cold storage. Breakfast cereals that contain oats or wheat germ should be stocked as early as October. Pasta products are available through January, depending on the brand and package size. Many of the kosher brand products are always yoshon.
Yoshon Guide – It is currently published once a year with several updates during the Yoshon season. You can subscribe to the guide by either calling 646-278-1189 or by sending a check for $20 to Project Chodosh Subscriptions c/o Mrs. C. Rosskamm, 963 Armstrong Ave, Staten Island, NY 10308
- See יו”ד ח’ ב’ סי’ רצ”ג וע”ע שם ט”ז ס”ק ב’ for discussion of grain grown by a non-jew. See יו”ד ח’ ב’ סי’ רצ”ג שיטת ר’ ברוך הובא בב”י וע”ע מ”א או”ח סי’ תפ”ט ס”ק י”ז for discussion of grain grown outside ארץ ישראל
- It’s important to understand that Yoshon is not a חומרא. It is because of lack of availability that we rely on leniencies.