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What is "Yoshon"?

Parshos Emor, when speaking about the korbon ho'omer, the Torah begins with, "ki sovo'u el ho'oretz"and describes the korbon ho'omer. Then the Torah says, " V'lechem, v'choli v'charmel lo sochlu ad etzem hayom hazeh ad haviaachem es korbon elokeichem chukas olom l'doroseichem b'chol moshvosechem." This is the mitzvas lo sa'aseh that one may not eat grain or grain products from the new crop, until after the korbon ho'omer is brought. Such food is commonly known as chodosh. If the Torah would only say "ki sovo'u el ho'oretz", the mitzva would be t'luyah bo'oretz and would not be noheg in chutz lo'oretz mid'oraisoh. However, the Torah added "b'chol moshvoseichem" - "in all your dwelling places", which would seem to include chutz lo'oretz. This question is a machlokes rishonim. However, most rishonim are of the opinion that chodosh is ossur mid'oraisah even if grown in chutz lo'oretz. Nevertheless, many Ashkenazim have been maikil, even in the time of rishonim.

The opposite of Chodosh (new) is YOSHON, literally means old, that the flour is from old crop. A side note, Rabbi Yosef Herman has started this project in Monsey, NY about twenty five years ago. A few years ago Rabbi Yosef Herman met with a number of the Kashrus certifiers to see how we can help him advance the Yoshon/Chodosh issues. More & more consumers have begun over the years asking for more products to be available that comply with the requirements of Yoshon. We will attempt to give a brief overview of what we have gathered at the meeting and afterwards about the subject. Yoshon is a concern only by any of the five grains -Wheat, Oats, Spelt, Rye and Barley, as the issur of chodosh applies to them. What constitutes old crop versus new crop? The planting & rooting of any of the five grains must take place before the 16th of Nissan in order for the resulting crop to be considered Yoshon & permitted. Any one of the grains that has been planted after the 16th of Nissan will only become permitted after the following Pesach. It is a question, how much after planting does rooting take place; it ranges from three days to two weeks. In the industry there is spring wheat and winter wheat. Spring wheat is planted in the spring, while winter wheat is planted in the fall and it lays dormant over the winter and is harvested in the summer. In the USA, rye and spelt are always yoshon, rye being a grain (rye bread also contains wheat flour). Barley and oats are almost all spring crops and therefore chodosh. Malt comes from barley and is used for several purposes. Malt may be used for flavoring or coloring. In Corn Flakes, Rice Crispies malt is used for flavoring, by most pretzels it is used for coloring. Beer also contains malt. Most vinegar-based items such as the common household vinegar, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, etc. is permitted. There are specialty vinegars such as malt vinegar, terragon vinegar and salad vinegar which are made with a high concentration of chodosh malt.

Harvesting: The new spring crop of oats is harvested in mid July, the new spring crop of wheat is harvested in early August, and the new spring crop of barley is harvested in the end of August. There is a certain period of time that elapses till the new crop reaches the consumer. The chemical properties (gluten/protein) of winter wheat and spring wheat are different. The commercial bakers are concerned mainly with the gluten content of the flour. There are basically three types of flour; Hi gluten, Medium gluten, and Low gluten. The high gluten is used for chewy products, such as bread, challah, and pizza. Low gluten is used for crumbly products, such as cookies, matzah, and pretzels. The medium gluten is actually a mix of winter and spring wheat. Durum wheat is used for pasta products. The commercial white cake, cookie, cracker and matzah flour is always yoshon, as long as they do not contain oats or malt. The commercial flours such as the high-gluten, high-strength, bread-flours, patent, clear, whole wheat, graham, and pizza flours may be chodosh. The high-gluten (high protein) spring wheat is grown in four states in the upper Midwest, North and South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota. The harvest starts in South Dakota in mid August and works its way northward.

Bakeries and the housewife use different types of flour. The housewife uses a more general all-purpose flour for almost all of her baking, while a commercial baker will use different types of flour for the many different items that are baked. Many times the baker or the supplier of flour will mix different types of flour in order to get a specific result in the end product. In most parts of the United States except in the Far West USA, the white cake and cookies will use yoshon flour. Therefore the sponge and marble cakes & crumbly cookies are usually yoshon. The yeast cakes, bobkas, and danishes after a certain date may be chodosh. It is important to ascertain from each bakery if and for which products do they mix different types of flour. The recipe for cakes varies from bakery to bakery. Many of the bakeries have a hasgocha that keeps a control on the yoshon/chodosh status of the bakery. If your specific bakery does not have a hasgocha for yoshon, discuss with the owners the advantage of having a hashgocha for yoshon. The crunchy type of product such as pretzels and matzos including the hand shmurah matzos use yoshon flour. The spelt matzos are also yoshon. A side note; Rice is not chodosh, many rice cakes may contain wheat, barley malt, or oats that may be chodosh, check the ingredients.

When a claim is made that the wheat is winter wheat is there any realistic way of indepedently verifying if it is so? There are now a few mills that were set up by the Orthodox Union of New York has set up a program to get some sort of handle on the yoshon status at the mills. There are bags in the 50 and 100 lbs. sizes that are packed as yoshon and sold as such to many of the bakeries. Some very large commercial bakeries or cookie manufactures get their flour in bulk tankers or rail cars. As far as we know now they are not being monitored for yoshon. Some mills get their wheat by boat or barge from different growing regions. The shipments coming to the mill may very well be from the new spring wheat, while the next shipment may be from another region that their wheat is still yoshon.

It is important for the yoshon consumer to familiarize themselves with the various different codes that manufactures use that may contain dates, which at first can be very confusing. There are usually letters and numbers used in a code. Many times a Month date & year will be printed on the package. Usually it will be an expiration date or some time frame after production, such as a year or 18 months after production. A Julian code is very common; i.e. #25410 will be the 254th day of the year, 1st shift, & the year 2000. A code of 223HC will be translated as follows 2 not important, 23= the day of the month, H=August (the 8th month), C='99. Another type of coding used is 2S290L, only the number 290, which would be the day of year, all of the rest, are unimportant. Another type of code would be 9441, the way to read it would be 9= the year 1999, 44 would be the 44th week of the year, 1 the first day of the week. Many times on bags of flour after the date code there will be a letter which will designate the mill. Certain mills will always be yoshon. Once we know the mill that it is a yoshon mill we do not have to concern ourselves with the rest of the date codes. The "Guide to Chodosh" is extremely helpful to unravel the confusion of the various codes being used by manufactures.

Some of the common items that yoshon is a concern are; yogurt toppings, Tofutti in itself is not a yoshon concern but it may contain wheat, barley or oats, peanut lentils, licorice contains flour, candy bars may contain wheat, barley or oats. Baby cereals may contain oats, wheat or barley. Sour punch ropes & sour candy straws may contain yoshon-related items. Beer is made from barley; barley malt may be in vodka, gin cordials and prepared cocktail mixes. The specialty vinegars are made from concentrated sources of malt, which is also a concern for the yoshon status. The flavorings used in cereals, cookies, candies may contain malt. The celestial seasoning teas may contain barley; soy beverages also contain barley malt. Pancake mixes, powder and frozen liquid are a yoshon concern. Certain salad & pilaf mixes do contain wheat items. Nature max vitamin contains oat bran. Couscos & casbah soup mixes is a yoshon concern. Ice cream cones are made from winter wheat like crackers. Rice in itself is not a yoshon concern but rice cakes may contain wheat, barley, malt or oats.