The uppermost and most valuable grain in a stack of oats. Hence, figuratively, one's most valuable possession, as in the case of a woman, chastity.--Edward Lloyd's Encyclopædic Dictionary, 1895
Pickling Time in Britain
The month of May was regarded as the proper time to distill herbs, which were then at their greatest perfection. Our domesticated progenitress pickled parsley green to cheat grim winter of some of its deprivations. They pickled nasturtium seeds, or else the seeds of elder while they were green to use as a substitute for capers. They pickled radish-pods, horse-radish, young artichokes, samphire, and even marigolds. Having pickled every green shoot, pod, and seed they could adapt to their purpose, they began to do the same by plums, apricots, peaches, currants, and grapes -- when they set about making jams no fruit escaped them, and sometimes the vegetables.--Frederick Hackwood's Good Cheer: The Romance of Food, 1911
Since the 1500s, the process of curing edibles in brine has been used figuratively in the phrase "in pickle," which meant to have something waiting, ready for use.
I don't care what anybody says, "Frederick Hackwood" is an awesome name.