The Torah (Vayikra 23:14) states that the new (i.e., Chodosh) crop of the five grains may not be eaten until after the second day of Passover (i.e., in Israel; in the Diaspora, not until after the third day). This means that the grain harvested this summer would not be allowed until after Passover of next year (i.e., 2016/5776). The term Yoshon (literally, old) refers to crops harvested last summer that became permitted after the following Passover. Thus, the 2014 crop of grains, harvested last summer, became permitted after this past Passover (i.e., 2015/5775). Grain planted at least two weeks (see Dagul Mervava Y.D. 293) or more before Passover is permitted upon harvest since it took root before Passover.
Outside of Israel, there are various customs based on numerous sources whether or not one needs to be stringent about only using Yoshon products. Each person should consult their Rov for guidance. In Israel, however, these leniencies do not apply. Therefore, any Israeli product bearing a reliable Kosher certification is definitely Yoshon.
Wheat in the USA has two planting seasons a year: winter and spring. Winter wheat can be planted anytime between October and February. The wheat grows to a young plant stage and remains in a stalled vegetative state until spring, at which time growth resumes. Once the wheat matures, it is harvested, usually in late spring/early summer. Spring wheat is planted between April and June and harvested as soon as it is ripe, typically 6-12 weeks after planting (usually at the end of July).
Since winter wheat is always planted at least two weeks before Passover, it is always Yoshon. Spring wheat, however, is planted right around Passover and [so far] never more than two weeks before, and thus always a Chodosh concern. Unlike wheat, the remaining four grains are single-season crops. Oats and barley are spring crops, planted around Passover and harvested in the summer, and therefore pose a Chodosh concern. Rye and spelt in the USA are winter crops and therefore never Chodosh.
Between Passover and the end of the summer (mid-August), all grain products are permitted because they are all either from a winter crop or the previous year’s spring crop. The new spring crop only enters the market around August, which signals the start of “the Yoshon season.” At that point, any products containing the new spring wheat, oats or barley may not be eaten by those who adhere to the stringency of Yoshon until after Passover of the following year.
STAR-K policy does not require our certified grain products to be Yoshon. However, any grain products made available at STAR-K certified facilities (e.g., all local bakeries) and characterized as Yoshon or retail products which make a Yoshon claim on the label, are required to be certified as Yoshon by the STAR-K. This means that STAR-K’s oversight program will include verifying the Yoshon status of any products we certify which are marketed and/or labeled as Yoshon.
The Guide to Yoshon by Rabbi Herman, which is updated and published every year, explains how to read the codes on various products to ascertain if they are produced from Yoshon or Chodosh grains. Due to the difficulty some people have in using this guide, we have prepared an abridged version (see attached) containing the most commonly used items and the date code information for those products.
Please refer to the guide for product information as well as local Baltimore establishment information. Since Yoshon availability can change at any time, consumers are urged to check with the Mashgiach at each establishment (or look for posted signs) prior to eating or shopping to ascertain Yoshon status. At catered events, the hashgocho cards will always list the Yoshon status for that event.