When is the Best Time to Start Keeping Yoshon?
Right after Passover, when everything becomes Yoshon. Any grains sprouted from the second day of Pesach and later are considered "chodosh" according to Vayikra [Leviticus] 23:14. One can eat anything out, and all products on the grocery shelves are Yoshon. There is one exception: Items that are or are made with “Sprouted Grain”. Any of the 5 grains that are "sprouted" are always chodosh, because they are always sprouted after Pesach! The most common products are health-food baked goods such as bread.
Toward the summer, it gets harder to become Yoshon. One must stock up on items they use frequently if they do not have access to a large kosher store, or grocery store that has a kosher foods section. Regular companies have no need to stock older grain, but there are several “Jewish” companies that cater to people who keep Yoshon, especially in bigger cities where there are large populations of Orthodox Jews.
When Does Chodosh Season Start?
Mid-summer is when the newly sprouted chodosh grains are harvested, processed, and shortly thereafter start to hit the shelves of the grocery stores. The earliest grains to become chodosh are Oats, which usually start in mid-July. The next is Wheat and Barley, which start in mid-August. Rye and Spelt grown in the US are usually always yoshon, unless they are "sprouted grains". Barley Malt is the last, becoming chodosh around mid-December.
There is a checklist of General Start Dates that can be downloaded and printed out. It's handy to put on your fridge. Go to Bulletin Updates. Many products can be determined by the packaging or purchase date codes printed on the package. There is a whole guide ("The Guide to Chodosh" by Rabbi Yoseph Herman) available every year that can be downloaded right here from our site. (Also from the link above.)
What's the Best Way to Purchase Products?
There are many companies that cater to Jewish consumers, especially in areas with higher populations of Jews. Some big cities have bakeries, pizzerias and restaurants that are using yoshon grain. One must ascertain this by checking with their local kashrut supervising agency. In grocery stores with many "Heimishe" or Jewish products, often the labels will state "yashan", "yoshon" or "made with kemach yoshon" (yoshon flour). Generally, companies that show "Yoshon" on the packages will have "Yoshon Hashgacha". This means there are kosher supervisors who make sure that a product contains only yoshon ingredients, not simply kosher ingredients. If a product has Yoshon Hashgacha, it will be listed under "Additional Info" along with the Date Code, Grain Ingredients, and other specifications.
Some items are inherently Yoshon. See "Buying Products" for more details. There are many flour companies that use Winter Wheat, which is always Yoshon. To make sure they are purely Winter Wheat, check the status of each product under "Additional Info". One can also do a search with the word "Yoshon" along with the product.
For those in smaller towns with limited Jewish brands, or for products that may be possibly chodosh, it merely involves a little bit of advance planning. Just as one would plan for a vacation, Shabbat or holidays, one must stock up on certain items from just after Pesach through around July. Often, one can find items in the back on grocery shelves if the stock hasn't been rotated.